Mystery noise

The odd saga of the “sonic attacks” continues

Photo credit: jo.sau licensed under CC BY 2.0

Vice News writes that the U.S. government has pulled out diplomats from a station in Guangzhou, China, “after one official suffered mild traumatic brain injury, sparking fears that U.S. government personnel in China were being targeted using the same methods that forced 24 U.S. officials to flee the Caribbean island in 2017.”

As in the earlier case, there has been no official explanation, instead the authorities issue medical alerts and statements assigning blame to Cuba or Russia or China. Vice News put together a timeline of this very odd 18-month old story.  As Vice notes in one entry from January 2018:

Sen. Marco Rubio, who chaired the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing into the attacks, called the weapon being used “very sophisticated technology that does not exist in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world” — despite no evidence that these weapons exist.

Given the enormous amount of money the U.S. spends on its military and intelligence, how likely is it that no one knows exactly what these phantom “sonic weapons” are or how they operate? It just feels like there’s something missing from this ongoing story, making it hard to accept the conclusion that “sonic weapons” are the source of the “mild traumatic brain injuries,” whatever this means.  Are we being too skeptical or do you agree?

Disturb everyone else with your noise, but protect yourself

Oh the irony.

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, the Quiet Coalition

This report at Motorcycle.com lists earplugs good for motorcycle riders.

The idea of protecting your own hearing, while bothering and deafening others with your motorcycle’s noise, is ironic.

Riding a motorcycle is a dangerous pastime, and many riders believe that a louder motorcycle is a safer one because drivers of other vehicles can hear them. Most experts, however, think that’s really not true and posit that many riders just like to make as much noise as possible to show how profoundly anti-social they are.

What they–and most police departments–don’t know is that there are state and federal laws regulating motorcycle exhaust noise, and the best way to avoid noise-induced hearing loss is to reduce the noise level at its source.

So rather than offering advice on protecting hearing to those who would impose their noise on the rest of us, Motorcycle.com, why not tell your readers to respect others by removing the illegal straight-pipe exhaust systems they put on their bikes?

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

A mysterious noise bedevils Windsor, Ontario

Is Zug Island the source of the hum?   Photo credit: Tara licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The perception of low frequency sound–infrasound, usually defined as lower than 20 Hertz (cycles per second)–and its health effects are not well understood. But something is bothering the residents of Windsor, Ontario, and it’s called the Windsor hum.

For more information on the hum, here’s a Vice News video:

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

Lafayette, Indiana’s mysterious hum solved!

And Duke Energy accepts the blame.

Residents of Lafayette, Indiana were hearing a mysterious hum during a recent cold wave, and they were concerned enough to call the local police to report it. Turns out, the reason for the intermittent humming was do to the recent bitter cold temperatures. Says Duke Energy, “it’s nothing but the sound of the simple physics needed to deliver electricity during the coldest weather in the past few years in Lafayette,” adding that “[i]t’s nothing to be concerned about and there’s no danger involved.”

So there’s your answer, Lafaytte. Now get some sleep!

 

Move over Bigfoot, you may have a competitor

The Huffington Post reports that strange sounds are popping up in different parts of Canada. How strange? Listen for yourself:

Ok, we admit that if we were in the middle of the woods and heard that we would set a new record for fastest sprint the hell out of there. That said, our money is on this phenomenon turning out to be the aural version of crop circles. Expect more to come.

After Cuba can the U.S. still claim noise is just an “annoyance”?

Photo credit: Stevenbedrick licensed under CC BY 3.0

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Are you following the Cuba episode on “weaponized sound”? If so, here’s some additional reading.

Nobody’s certain what’s going on there. Is it a hoax? A Trumpian cover for pulling the U.S. embassy out of Havana?

No. It could be both real and very ironic….

What’s interesting to those of us who are concerned about the epidemic of noise in America and the effects of that noise on everyone’s health, is this:

The official posture of several intimidatingly large U.S. federal agencies—for example the Departments of Commerce and Transportation and the EPA—is that noise is nothing more than “annoyance.” That policy has been in place for over 35 years. But if noise is merely “annoyance” how has it been “weaponized” by some foreign adversary?

The latest speculation is that the “sonic attack” in Havana might have involved “infrasound.”

Fact is, In the U.S. infrasound is poorly understood precisely because there’s been so little funding to research it. Why? Because if noise doesn’t matter, if it’s merely “annoyance,” then just ignore it. And so the U.S. has ignored noise for decades, but that may be coming to an end.

Perhaps the decades of ignoring noise and its impact on health will now change and researchers will have to unscramble some wily adversary’s “secrets” because they appear to be in use against us. Ironically, by ignoring the importance of sound and noise for nearly four decades, the U.S. has fallen behind and will have to scramble to catch up.

But that’s an old story, isn’t it?

In addition to serving as vice chair of the The Quiet Coalition, David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: The Acoustics Research Council, American National Standards Institute Committee S12, Workgroup 44, The Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Working Group—a partner of the American Hospital Association. He is the lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0 (2012, Springer-Verlag), a contributor to the National Academy of Engineering report “Technology for a Quieter America,” and to the US-GSA guidance “Sound Matters”, and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics (LARA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He recently retired from the board of directors of the American Tinnitus Association. A graduate of the University of California/Berkeley with graduate degrees from Cornell University, he is a frequent organizer of and speaker at professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Sounds like Russian psyops to us

Zaria Gorvett, BBC.com, writes about “[t]he ghostly radio station that no one claims to run.”  Gorvett tells us that the radio station, located outside of St. Petersburg, Russia, has been on the air 24/7, seven days a week, for the past 35 years. So what does it broadcast? Not your typical radio fare. Says Gorvett:

[I]t’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.”

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

Apparently the radio station has its fans–thousands of them–even though they don’t know what they are listening to. Gorvett writes that “[t]here’s no shortage of theories to explain what the [radio station] might be for,” including the theory that it is operating as “a ‘Dead Hand’ signal. That is, in the event Russia is hit by a nuclear attack, “the drone will stop and automatically trigger a retaliation. No questions asked, just total nuclear obliteration on both sides.”

What follows is a long discussion of other theories, along with an explanation of “numbers stations,” i.e., “radio stations that broadcast coded messages to spies all over the world.” Gorvett tells us about one famous number station that was known as the “Lincolnshire Poacher,” which was the name of the English folk tune that would play at the beginning of the hour (the first two bars repeated 12 times). After the music finished playing, it was followed by “the disembodied voice of a woman reading groups of five numbers – “1-2-0-3-6” – in a clipped, upper-class English accent.”

In the end, we wonder if the station exists just to play with our heads. Or maybe it’s partly a jobs program, partly performance art? Gorvett says that many believe it’s a different type of hybrid, with the constant drone serving to keep other people from using the frequency, but in the event of a crisis, such as Russia being invaded, the station would become a numbers station. In which case, she concludes, “let’s just hope that drone never stops.”

And for once we hope the noise does not end.

 

 

 

 

 

Is the mystery of “The Hum” solved?

Photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxi licensed under CC BY 2.0

News.com.au reports that scientists believe they have discovered the source of the mysterious hum that “can drive [some] people to the brink of madness.” For those who can hear it, “‘The Hum‘ can cause sleepless nights, stress and nosebleeds and is described as a relentless ‘kind of torture’ with no explanation.” Various theories have been bandied about as to the source–submarines, gas pipes, and even mating fish–but in the end the explanation is far less fanciful. Scientists Fabrice Ardhuin, Lucia Gualtieri, and Eleonore Stutzmann believe that the “microseismic activity, recorded everywhere on Earth, is largely due to ocean waves.” So how do ocean waves make the hum? The scientists postulate that “the pressure of the waves on the sea-floor causes the earth to vibrate like a bell and creates a sound that is heard more by some than others.”

Of course the answer won’t bring relief to those who suffer from the hum (known as “hummers”), but it may help them from being misdiagnosed with tinnitus.

 

 

“Health attacks” by inaudible sonic waves are real

Photo credit: Tess Watson licensed under CC BY 2.0

James Hamblin, The Atlantic, writes about the attacks on American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba in his article, “What Are Sound Weapons?” Hamblin starts his piece by describing the incidents which caused several Havana-based diplomats to suffer headaches, balance issues, and even severe hearing loss. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Hamblin notes, refered the to incidents as “health attacks.” And the AP reported that “U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences.”

The weaponization of “energy waves with frequencies outside the range that the human ear can detect” is not new, writes Hamblin, and the health effects from exposure to inaudible sonic waves are real. Hamblin shares the story of residents of Kokomo, Indiana, who in 2001 experienced “annoyance, sleep disturbance, headaches, and nausea.” The U.S. National Institutes of Health investigated the matter but “couldn’t pin down the cause of the Indiana residents’ symptoms as infrasound.” The report, however, “did confirm that infrasound can cause fatigue, apathy, hearing loss, confusion, and disorientation.”

In the end, U.S. officials don’t know if Cuba is responsible or some third party, with the suggestion offered that the actor could have been “Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela, or Iran.” But Hamblin adds that the attack is hardly sophisticated, as “[n]oise-induced hearing loss affects around one in four people,” although the source of noise is more mundane for most of us: loud concerts, shooting guns, and everyday failures to protect our hearing. Says Hamblin, “fascination with this sort of attack can be a reminder that it is worth arming ourselves in daily life against the more quotidian forms of sonic weaponry.”