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No. 88: Jul-Aug 1993

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The Taos Hum

Over the years, we have reported on the British hum (SF#36) and the Sausalito hum (SF#42). The latter has been attributed to mating toadfish in the harbor; the former to an underground network of gas pipelines. We have resisted reporting other hums. However, a recently reported hum possesses some interesting features. It is called the Taos hum, and it has been bothering some sensitive individuals in the U.S. Southwest:

"More than a dozen people living in an area from Albuquerque to the Colorado border said in July 1992 interviews with the Albuquerque Journal that they had heard the lowlevel hum.

"A Denver audiologist said that she had recorded a steady vibration of 17 cycles per second with a harmonic rising to 70 cycles per second near Taos. The low range of human hearing is 20 to 30 cycles per second."

(Anonymous; "Defense Dept. Denies Link to Taos Hum," Albuquerque Journal, April 7, 1993. Cr. L. Farish.)

Some residents of Taos are plagued by this machine-like sound that grinds away 24 hours a day, with only occasional respites. Some cannot sleep; others complain of headaches. Most people, however, cannot hear the hum at all.

Nevertheless, it is there. Instruments pick it up. In fact, they have even recorded a higher-frequency component that pulses between 125 and 300 cycles per second.

The cause of the hum is a mystery. One hint comes from the observation that the hum seems concentrated along the Rio Grande Rift, a fault that also runs into Texas and Colorado. One theory blames the hum on the fault's rock surfaces grinding against each other!

(Begley, Sharon, et al; "Do You Hear What I Hear?, Newsweek, May 3, 1993. Cr. J. Covey.)

Reference. The world is full of mysterious hums. See: GSH5 in our catalog volume: Earthquakes, Tides, Unidenti fied Sounds. Ordering information here.

From Science Frontiers #88, JUL-AUG 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss