Gunshots? Feisty Couples? Nah.
A Hum Is Robbing Folks of Sleep
People who live in war zones and disaster areas have learned it long ago. And so have those of the fickle slumber kind. For the great majority of mankind, the quest for a silent night of sleep gets harder every day. And then there is that humming.
What used to be called the Bristol Hum has now been reported all over the world, and well-rested ears are finally tuning in. As thin walls or jumpy imagination are not longer blamed for it, a reasonably sound explanation may settle the mystery.
Conclusive research have proved how lousy sleepers we’ve all become, at least since the bulb came to light (sorry). As more is learned about the depths of our unconscious state, less is known about how much we’ve lost trying to be up and running at all hours.
People and animals show considerable loss of performance and overall quality of life, when sleep is restricted. There are many fascinating studies on the subject, but it’s better to put that to rest for now, so not lead everyone into a loud snore.
Is not that insomnia is more prevalent, even if it is, or that we’ve all been dreaming about a good night of sleep, or so we should. It’s our days, crammed with so many chores rammed up deep into penumbra territory. When we’re finally done, it’s already time to get up.
Some try Zen and the art of not giving a hoot about an ever ‘on’ world, full of lamps, neon, and TV sets. If not that, then the vain effort of carving extra hours from the canyons of the night, to jam them with big blobs of extra wakefulness.
THINGS THAT GO HUMING INTO THE NIGHT
No wonder. Not just external noise is increasing, hammering our heads with insane bangs and clangs, but also low noise, the almost imperceptible humming of billions of electronic appliances and, if one’s to believe some Internet sites, the aliens’ very own breath.
Research conducted by geoscientist David Deming since 2004 may have broken the puzzle, and to many, all the fun: surprising absolutely no one, but making a lot of sense, he concluded that Very Low Frequency (VLF) radio waves, between 3 and 30kHz, are the culprit for the hum.
It’s the frequency used by, you guessed, the world’s military to communicate with submerged submarines, via industrial-strength land-based and airborne transmitters. It’s powerful enough to penetrate a solid inch of aluminum. And drive light sleepers insane.
THE DEEP SEA WHISTLE HEARD FROM SPACE
Speaking of which, not all theories invoked to explain the phenomenon were by conspiracy-driven nutcakes. For the Earth does make sounds the human ear is not equipped to detect, and the wind, well, it blows and sings and haunts and everything else.
An intriguing study, by University of Liverpool Chris Hugues and his team, for instance, found that the Caribbean Sea (more)
* Singing Suns
acts as a whistle, blowing so high that it can be ‘heard’ from space in the form of oscillations of the Earth’s gravity field.
No one loses sleep over this subsonic noise, named the Rossby Whistle, of course. If anything, the loud crashing of waves is actually soothing to many a restless body, desperately trying to doze off before the morning commute.
THE HUM THAT TOOK OVER THE WORLD
Then again, a lot of us have no sea or lapping waves, kissing city limits and nursing us to sleep. So when dawn hits, we may be washed out, staggering or delirious, anything but ready for another day. Fittingly, morning commute faces are often murderously unfriendly.
What some do hear, though, in an ever expanding global wave, is what sounds like an engine idling, and it’s no nursery rhyme. It faintly drills brains and frays nerves overnight, and makes mild-mannered citizens curse at their neighbors in coffee-fueled town hall meetings.
University of British Columbia Glen MacPherson, who compiled an interactive map and database of reports about the disturbing low-frequency noise, adds to Deming’s studies a few other potential causes for the phenomenon. But both see VLF as the best candidate.
THE SCARIEST SENSE AT THE MULTIPLEX
There something else about the outdoor hum, which helped enhance its mysterious origin: our ancient dread associated with the sense of hearing. Horror movie directors have long known this, and exploit it accordingly. Cue the dripping piano notes.
(Whoa, who do you think this is for? You scared shitless little brother, that’s who. Remember when you turned off the power and started making strange noises from unknown areas of the house? He didn’t forget it either. And the ice cream you used to bribe him not to tell your parents has long expired its validation. )
The hum is unsettling because it can’t be traced directly to a single physical source, it’s unsteady in its background vibrations, and because when everything stops, it’s there. For much less, folks have been known to jump off bridges.
THIS IS VERY, HO-HUM, INTERESTING
Just think about it: if the cause behind the hum is really war machines capable of sonically piercing through walls of metal and mortar, then, there’s no end to it, and, grasp, the line leading to that guardrail across the river may soon increase.
For some people can sleep through a storm, but the majority would jump at the drop of a pin. A more or less constant noise, pounding in the background and coming from everywhere, may be as well the stuff nightmares are made of. Speaking of which, how hard till they come up with a way of whispering subliminar commands deep within the hum, to make us do unsavory things?
Coming to think of it, let us get back to our business here: hey, you, having second thoughts? Then get out of the way; sleepless people are waiting too long for their turn to jump.