10 Intriguing Mysteries About Sound-Related Phenomena
By Gregory Myers, Listverse, 3 May 2016.
By Gregory Myers, Listverse, 3 May 2016.
Sound is something that we take for granted even though it is an essential part of our existence. We require sound to communicate with others through speech, and we need it to listen to important verbal cues in life. It also helps us to enjoy forms of entertainment like music and television.
Considering how important sound is in our lives, most people believe that we have the concept fully figured out. However, there are still many mysteries about sound that we have yet to solve.
10. The Mysterious Space Roar
In 2009, NASA discovered a phenomenon - dubbed the “space roar“ - for which they have no solid explanation. They had sent a probe above the Earth’s atmosphere to search for radiation from the oldest stars in the universe. Instead, they found the space roar.
These radio waves were in the form of synchrotron radiation, which is electromagnetic radiation that comes from charged particles. This radio noise was six times greater than expected in the vacuum of space. After testing many theories, NASA still can’t explain it.
Some scientists believe that it is coming from the earliest stars in the universe. Others have suggested that massive clusters of galaxies are confusing our equipment with their size and density. But so far, we have no reliable or accepted explanation for the space roar.
9. The Strange Skyquakes Heard All Over The World
Many people instantly dismiss skyquakes as a bunch of conspiracy nonsense. It certainly didn’t help that some people were saying that skyquakes were the trumpets of the apocalypse and a sign that the End Times were near.
In 2012, a YouTube channel began to upload “skyquake videos,” which were shaky cam videos that had been doctored to seem like the genuine phenomenon.
All hoaxes aside, real skyquakes tend to only happen near coastal areas. Skyquakes are described as loud booming sounds like giant cannons. Some people have suggested that this is the sonic boom of an airplane, but skyquakes were reported throughout the world long before the Internet or airplanes existed.
Others have suggested that this phenomenon could be a meteorite exploding in the sky or the sound of distant thunder. But most people dismiss these theories as being unrealistic.
The most common theory among scientists is that skyquake noises happen when gas escapes from vents in the Earth. As gas is more likely to escape from Earth underwater, this would explain why most of the sounds are heard near coastal areas. But as of early 2016, no one really knows what causes skyquakes.
8. The Unexplainable And Persistent Hum
Many people around the world have heard of this distinctive, mysterious humming sound or have been bothered by it themselves. It is said to be a fairly low-pitched humming that continues on and on. It can drive people crazy who keep hearing it. This sound has been heard from Taos, New Mexico, to Bristol, England, and has been disturbing people’s peace of mind for decades.
At first, some people dismissed the claims as those of a few crazy people. Then more complaints popped up, so others called it mass hysteria. However, scientists have always believed that it was caused by something physical. To this end, they have been trying to get a handle on the issue for quite some time.
Recently, researchers saw that microseismic currents from long waves in the ocean are causing tiny planetary vibrations that can create persistent sounds. However, this theory doesn’t entirely explain the situation.
For example, it doesn’t explain why the sound is so persistent and flat instead of being intermittent or constantly changing - as you would expect if it was made by the movements of the ocean. This theory also doesn’t explain why some people in a given area can hear the hum but others can’t.
7. Wind Farms And Their Sound Pollution
Wind power is currently an incredibly controversial source of power. No one seems to know quite how to go forward with it. While it can be useful because wind is a “renewable” resource, there are serious environmental consequences. One of the biggest issues has been noise pollution.
The UK government studied if people were getting violently sick from wind farm noise. They found that these claims were a bit hyperbolic, but the noise was definitely keeping many people awake at night - partly because it was intermittent noise. The government admitted that this could be bad for people’s health in the long term.
Due to the constantly fluctuating nature of wind, these wind farms aren’t a reliable source of power and often underperform expectations. To create new places for wind farms, massive deforestation may be needed, which is also bad for the environment.
Wind farms also kill a stunning number of birds each year. According to Smithsonian Magazine, avian deaths range in the hundreds of thousands and could increase if taller wind turbines become more popular.
This has been especially harmful to species like bald and golden eagles that are under partially protected status right now. They often run afoul of wind turbines in the US.
6. Infrasound And Alleged Hauntings
If you’ve experienced strange, unsettling feelings at a horror movie even though you’re usually hard to scare, you may have been the victim of a movie that uses infrasound to further frighten you.
Infrasound is a frequency that sits at about 19 Hz, which is just below normal human perception. But it is clear that most humans can detect infrasound in some way, and it leaves us feeling incredibly disturbed.
Scientists have discovered that infrasound can leave people feeling shaky, disoriented, confused, and scared. Under the right conditions, it can also cause us to think that we’ve seen or heard strange things.
In fact, the findings from some studies have supported the theory that many allegedly haunted houses are situated in areas with infrasound. This may cause people to have strange experiences in these old buildings. However, even if this is the answer to hauntings, scientists still don’t understand why infrasound bothers us so much in the first place.
Infrasound may feel supernatural to us because it is just outside our perception, which could explain why we feel so unsettled and stressed. Some scientists also suggest that our reaction to infrasound may be an evolutionary survival response. They point out that a tiger’s roar right before it kills is close to 19 Hz.
5. If A Tree Falls In The Forest
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
This old question has caused endless debate without getting closer to a definitive answer. Some people will gladly take a strong stance on the issue, insisting that the tree makes a sound because animals are probably there to hear it.
Others counter that the term “no one” means no humans or animals. According to their argument, there isn’t any sound if no person or animal hears it because perception is what creates a sound.
To prove the answer one way or the other, you need some kind of observer, even if it is only electronic. An electronic observation could then be translated by the person who listened to it for evidence. However, if there is any type of observer, then the “no one around to hear it” condition is violated. This makes the question impossible to answer.
However, this kind of question was likely formed without expecting a definitive answer. Originally, the question may have been a philosophical exercise to consider how much an action mattered if no one was around to observe or be affected by it. Over the years, it has turned into an actual debate among some scientists.
4. Singing That Breaks A Glass And Trumpets That Tear Down City Walls
We’ve all seen the trope where an opera singer breaks a glass just by holding a high note for a long time. As implausible as it may seem, a human voice - without amplification - can sing the right note and vibrate a glass into pieces.
But this is more than entertainment. Many governments are working on sonic weaponry, especially as a means of crowd control against rioting populations. Although we know that sound can be a useful weapon, we do not know its limits yet. Some people even have historical questions about this issue.
In the Bible, Joshua and his army conquered the famed city of Jericho with the power of music. They marched around the city blasting their trumpets for seven days. Eventually, the walls came down - allegedly from the power of their trumpets. Many people doubt this version of events, and some scholars have doubted whether the battle ever took place.
Although recent evidence has suggested that a real archaeological site may have been Jericho, the question of whether trumpets could have been involved in its downfall may never be answered.
Scientists suggest that earthquake activity could have caused Jericho to fall. The biblical account says that the nearby river was dried up, and geological experts believe that this could have signified an impending earthquake.
Despite these theories, the excavation of the site is still in its early stages. Tesla believed that a resonance device could pull down buildings or create enormous earthquakes. But no one has scientifically tested if a huge army of trumpet players could have destroyed the walls of Jericho.
3. The Rightful Inventor Of Radio Communication
When asking who invented radio, you will get many different answers. Some people are adamant that the true inventor of radio was Nikola Tesla, the fan favorite on the Internet. Others will state that Guglielmo Marconi did most of the work and presented the first functional radio to the world. However, the truth is far more muddled.
Although Tesla did experiment extensively with early radio communication and had some related patents, he never produced the kind of working radio that Marconi did. Tesla argued that Marconi designed his radio using several of Tesla’s patents. But this is like saying that you invented television because you designed cathode-ray tubes.
Even if you believe that Tesla built the foundation and Marconi finished the work, this ignores the contribution of many other people. David Edward Hughes, Thomas Edison, and others did work that helped Tesla and Marconi to understand how radio waves worked, although Heinrich Hertz eventually got the credit for that discovery.
Although we may never know who deserves the most credit for the invention of radio, it is safe to say that this invention was not the work of one person. It took decades of discovery by several scientists building on one another’s work to bring us the radio communication that we have today.
2. A World With No Noise Pollution
The modern world is constantly besieged by a cacophony of sounds. Even if you live in a fairly remote location, you will probably still hear the sounds of airplanes flying overhead. It has become increasingly hard to escape artificial noise pollution.
Noise pollution also interferes greatly with people’s circadian rhythms. There are other health issues as well. Despite regulations to curb this problem, it has reached a point of being almost entirely out of control. Loud, unnatural noises day and night have become a reality of life on Earth. However, it wasn’t always this way.
Constant noise pollution is a recent development. If we go back even one century, artificial noise occurred mostly during the day and even that was not close to the level of sound that we have now. About 200 years ago, noise pollution essentially didn’t exist, especially at night when people were trying to sleep.
We can only wonder what it would be like to live in a world that doesn’t constantly bombard us with noise. How much better would our health and peace of mind be? We will never know because there is no longer a way to escape noise pollution.
1. The High-Pitched Sound With No Apparent Source
Earlier this year, the community of Forest Grove, Oregon, was dealing with a bizarre situation that kept them up at night. Multiple residents heard a strange noise. One woman was even awakened by the noise several times late at night and became seriously bothered by it. She didn’t believe that it was anything sinister, but she still wanted it to stop.
She went to the police and fire departments of Forest Grove for help. But they were unable to pinpoint a cause. The city’s employees did rule out a gas leak, a water valve, or animals making noise.
The woman who was most bothered by the noise captured sound from a video and sent it to the news. Her husband thought that it was a problem with someone’s brake pads. The sound was long, high-pitched, and screechy - similar to a train at a certain speed. But there are no trains in the area.
Although the brake pad explanation seems plausible, it would still not explain why the woman heard the sound throughout the night at odd hours. Although the sound may not be particularly worrisome, the issue has remained unsolved.
Top image credit: geralt/Pixabay.
[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]