Is there an explanation to strange sounds?

Booms. Hums. Pings. Buzzes. Rumbles. There can be more than disturbing sounds of unknown origin; they can inspire decades of myth and paranoia and obsessive scientific inquiry. Some cases of enigmatic noise, such as the southern Pacific “bloops” recorded by hydrophones from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1997 and finally connected to Antarctic icequakes in 2005, are now closed. But there remain other cacophonous culprits at large. Here are some of the great acoustic wonders of the earth, from jarring radio broadcasts to harmonious dunes.

  1. The Seneca Guns

For more than a century, ghostly detonations have haunted people near upstate New York’s Seneca Lake and along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Scientists have hypothesized that the cannon-like sounds that rattle windows and can even open closed doors could be responsible for earthquakes, but they have never found clear proof of the connection. Meteorites, clandestine military activities, and methane gas bubbling out from under the water to burst with a pop are other possible sources. While the cause of this persistent phenomenon is still debated by some geophysicists, they consider the harmless rumbles more of a curiosity than a pressing scientific issue.

2. The Loneliest Whale

And when the U.S. The Navy gave scientists access to a network of hydrophones installed in the 1950s to listen to Soviet subs, and a surprising song was discovered by researchers. A beat (and migratory path) reminiscent of a blue or fin whale followed. However, although these species bellow at pitches of about 15 to 25 Hz, the latest notes exceed 52 Hz, just about as low as can be managed by a tuba. William Watkins, the scholar of marine mammals who discovered and listened to the singular singer for 12 years, died in 2004. When sensors detected a similar call in 2010, however the search picked up again. Was this the original swimmer, or a hint that Watkins’ musical mutant wasn’t so lonely after all? Scientists remain stumped.

3. The Buzzer

Inherently eerie are the numbers of stations-shortwave radio broadcasts of monotone coded messages. Yet UVB-76’s call sign has outcreeped them all by playing Russia’s same jolting tone since 1982. Similar broadcasts are helpful for transmitting messages where digital comms could be intercepted by snoops, so the Buzzer” could simply support spies. But there are far fewer terms and figures than verified spy sources, so some believe it’s a research experiment that bounces radio waves off the ionosphere to detect solar flares. The most interesting hypothesis posits that if Russia suffers a nuclear attack, it is a doomsday device that will go deaf, thereby causing retaliation.

4. The Forest Grove Shriek

In February 2016, a Portland suburb screamed its way into the enigmatic noise league with a loud mechanical squeal. The sound, which rang like a squeaky door, interrupted the sleep of the residents for a month or so before ceasing. There was plenty of time, from alien invasions to burned-out lightbulbs, to inspire tons of amateur theories. But attempts to find the true source, including those of a local physics professor who used a Google Map full of complaint calls to triangulate the noisemaker, all failed. When the trail went cold, police closed their investigation, speculating that a noisy attic fan or water pump on the fritz may have been to blame for the vanishing screech.

5. The Hum

To trigger an alert, a clamor doesn’t need to be high-pitched. For decades, individuals in New Mexico, England, Canada, New Zealand, and elsewhere have reported hearing analogous bouts of pervasive, low-frequency droning. The added intrigue of not being audible to everyone has this ring. Some speculate that a factor may be tinnitus, which causes ear ringing. But not everyone who appears to be one of them suffers from the disease. Can they picture a rumble based on the accounts of others? Where does it come from, if it really exists? It’s hard to know where a serious investigation will begin with such abstract humming and hawing, so this sonic conundrum stays uncracked.

6. Singing Sand

Go to Asia’s Gobi Desert or Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and you could just hear a spooky melody. The huge beach formations create a low roar that has terrified and fascinated intrepid travelers from at least as far back as the 13th century, when Marco Polo likened it to the sounds of all kinds of musical instruments.” But there is a plausible explanation: the dunes are likely to begin singing off the slopes as grains fall, avalanche-style. A research in 2012, in which physicists caused the requisite cascade by scooting downhill on their butts, speculated that the distinctive pitch variations of the phenomenon are due to grain size differences.

7. The Vocal Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon, built almost 3,500 years ago, guarded the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III near Luxor. But one sentinel at his post was not silent: at dawn, he “sang”. This caused a tourist craze, and tourists left graffiti in the form of ancient Yelp reviews. “A poem on the leg of the statue comparing the sound to “ringing bronze,” was written by Julia Balbilla, a Roman noble who visited in 130 A.D. The music apparently died around the time Roman Emperor Septimus Severus ordered repairs to the sculpture in 200 A.D. That could be a clue: maybe dew collected cracks in the stone, producing acoustic vibrations as temperatures rose and the liquid warmed.

Check out my related post: Why do sweatshirts have that v in the neck?

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