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No. 10: Spring 1980

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Homing In On The Hum

In 1977 the English Sunday Mirror ran a story about someone who claimed to hear a steady and very annoying humming noise. To everyone's surprise, the article elicited some 800 letters from others who heard hums. Amazed by the magnitude of the problem, doctors began examining some of the afflicted. In a few cases, the hum seemed to be internally generated -- something akin to tinnitus, which causes one to hear a highpitched whine. Many others, however, heard a 40 Hz hum modulated at 1.6 kHz, and apparently of external origin. The hum sufferers were inclined to blame industrial noise, but no obvious sources could be uncovered. The hum investigators have considered sea noise, jetstream noise, and other natural sources. Whatever the source, most people do not hear it at all. It is possible that a small percentage of the population is abnormally sensitive to sound at 40 Hz.

(Wilson, Steve; "Mystery of People Who Hear the Hum," New Scientist, 84:868, 1979.)

Comment. Anomalous natural hums are not unknown; viz., the Yellowstone Lake Whispers and "desert sounds." Al-so a select few seem to be able to hear the very low auroras. For more on hums, see GSH5 and GSH6 in: Earthquakes, Tides, Anomalous Sounds. This Catalog is described here.

From Science Frontiers #10, Spring 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987