How The Hum Works


Josh: Josh Clark

Chuck: Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant

Vo: Voiceover Speaker

Vo: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks.com.

[MUSIC]

Josh: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark, with Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant, and I would say it's Stuff You Should Know but it's not, because I haven't said Jeri, but now I did, so this is Stuff You Should Know.

Chuck: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Josh: Yes?

Chuck: Are people going crazy yet?

Josh: I don't know. There's probably some people who started going crazy the moment they hit play.

Chuck: Yeah. That's Chuck's version of The Hum.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Capital T, Capital H.

Josh: Yeah, so the hum you just did, it makes sense, it's a hum, but apparently if you listened-I wonder if you can hear the same thing I'm hearing, because you're hearing it in your head. But there's like a gravelly quality to it.

Chuck: A vocal fry.

Josh: Okay, if you want to call it that. I say gravelly. But it's not-it wasn't constant, the gravelly thing gave it texture and it was kind of broken up a little bit. That is more akin to the Hum then the unbroken part that was going throughout.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So, apparently while this is called the Hum, and we should eventually explain what we are talking about, it's not the classical definition of a hum that people hear. It's like a diesel truck idling, an engine idling is the classic description of it.

Chuck: Yeah, that term vocal fry is one of those. You ever hear or learn of a new expression or a thing that you have never heard of and then you see it everywhere?

Josh: That is called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Chuck: That's happening to me with vocal fry.

Josh: Where did you hear that?

Chuck: I can't remember where I initially heard it, but it's a thing now that they say, like Kim Kardashian is who they always blame. It's a vocal affectation that supposedly young woman are using now, where they go into that lower tone, that gravelly tone, on certain, like the ends of sentences usually.

Josh: I know what you're talking about. I heard that too. Then that supposedly keeps them from being promoted at work or something.

Chuck: Yeah, yeah.

Josh: It's the female equivalent of the guys who speak up.

Chuck: Yeah, or the old valley girl thing, which is up-speak.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Like valley girls, talking like that.

Josh: [SHUDDERS]

Chuck: But now it's, "You know he was a nice guy but I'm really wasn't sure what his motivation was."

Josh: Oh, okay, yeah. That was a great impression.

Chuck: Jeri just laughed.

Josh: That's because it was dead on.

Chuck: Yeah, and that's a thing.

Josh: I totally got that. You had pigtails just now.

Chuck: Yeah, I was talking to Emily about it the other day and she was like, "Do I do that?" I was like, "No, you don't do that."

Josh: No, you don't.

Chuck: I just did that, didn't I?

Josh: A little bit, but you were doing a different voice, so it makes sense.

Chuck: Yeah, anyway, I can't escape it now.

Josh: Vocal fry, huh?

Chuck: It's like every other day since I've heard it I have seen something about vocal fry.

Josh: And have you noticed people with vocal fry more?

Chuck: All the time.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: Yeah. It's annoying.

Josh: What you're describing now has really nothing to do with the Hum, but it actually does have a lot in common with the Hum in that-

Chuck: It's driving me to suicide.

Josh: -people who hear the Hum tend to be able to focus in on it more and more easily, the more that they are exposed to it, which is the opposite of what should happen to a noise that really is inconsequential in the environment.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: So what we are talking about here, Chuck, is the Hum, with a capital H.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: What is it?

Chuck: Well, it is a sound, a mysterious sound that is heard in places around the world, by about 2% of the local population. It is a low-and we are going to get into the frequencies and all that, but let's just call it a low-frequency rumbling right now. It's a drone, it's a vibration, described sometimes as it sounds like it's coming from nowhere or inside my own head. There are places all around the world, where like I said, a very small population of people experience this Hum, and depending on where you are, they will name it that Hum. Like the Auckland Hum, the Windsor Hum.

Josh: The Bristol Hum.

Chuck: Yeah, the Taos Hum. It's been described-going back to the 1800s, people have talked about it in literature but really in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, in the modern world, is when people have started describing hearing this thing that drives them batty basically.

Josh: Right, and one of the ways that it drives them batty is they'll say, "Do you hear that?" and everyone else in the room will say, "No."

Chuck: The other 98% of the people say, "Uh-uh."

Josh: Yeah, they'll be like, "How? What do you mean you don't hear that?"

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And everybody else in the room goes, "Okay, maybe you're a little wacky."

Chuck: It's generally at night.

Josh: It's worse at night, for sure.

Chuck: Generally in more rural areas, which make sense because not as much noise pollution, I think.

Josh: Exactly. It also tends to be worse indoors. So, at night-

Chu k: Which is a little weird.

Josh: -indoors, means that you don't get much sleep, because this is something that you can't not focus on. People who suffer from the Hum tend to say that it dominates the soundscape. It's not something they can just tune out, and it's not something that they're getting used to, and again, the more they are exposed to it, the easier they say it is to tune into it.

Chuck: Uh-huh.

Josh: And I guess become cognizant of it yet again.

Chuck: Yeah, and obsess about it.

Josh: Yeah, and imagine being plagued by a sound that does this to you and that everyone else says is not real because they don't hear it.

Chuck: Yeah. We'll get into the reasons that it may be or may not be happening, but it's been passed off as mass hysteria, or mass illusion, from everything from that to government conspiracy, to a legitimate noise, whether or not it's acoustic or electromagnetic, and that's part of the problem, is, is there one Hum, are there lots of Hums, is there no Hum? You know your skeptics will say there is no hum, it's tinnitus or it's something like that.

Josh. Right.

Chuck: Or some other inner ear noise, like otoacoustic noise. So, who knows?

Josh: There are two ways that the Hum-okay, so again, let's restate this and let's put ourselves in the position of the outsider.

Chuck: Because I don't experience the Hum, so I am an outsider.

Josh: I don't either, knock on wood, because the more I research it, the more I'm like, "Oh God, I hope I never do."

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: We left out one quality of it that is common around the world. When we say around the world, it tends to be, curiously, concentrated in the West and in-

Chuck: Oh yeah, I didn't notice that.

Josh: -the Euro ancestry West.

Chuck: Yeah, I didn't really see anything about any countries in the east.

Josh: If you look at-there is a guy who runs a-

Chuck: Is this Glen MacPherson?

Josh: Yes, Glen MacPherson runs something called the World Hum Map and Database, and we ran into Glen MacPherson. Before we get too far, we should give a huge shout-out to Jared Keller, over at Mic, who wrote this amazing article called "A Mysterious Sound Is Driving People Insane - And Nobody Knows What's Causing It." Totally worth reading.

Chuck: Yep.

Josh: He talks about a guy named Glen MacPherson, who is a professor in British Columbia and he set up a website called the World Hum Map and Database. And so, anybody who hears the Hum can go and fill out a questionnaire, and then it takes that data and puts a dot on the map. You can hover over the dot and get the data, right?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: But if you look at it, it's just the United States, Great Britain, Western Europe.

Chuck: Yeah, Canada.

Josh: South Africa. It's unusual that there's nothing in Africa except South Africa. It's just in these European ancestry Western countries, right? On the one hand you could say, "Well, that's because this is an English language database."

Chuck: Oh, that makes sense.

Josh: And so of course somebody whose native language is Swahili isn't going to go onto this-

Chuck: They don't call it the Hum.

Josh: -and be like, "I have no idea what I'm typing here," but yeah, yeah exactly. So that's one explanation. There are other explanations, too, and now we arrive at one of them. We are going back on the outside. Because you don't hear the Hum, I don't hear the Hum, and let's say that we are ear, nose, and throat guys and somebody comes to us and says, "I'm going crazy. I am seriously contemplating suicide because this Hum is keeping me up at night. I haven't slept in weeks. I'm irritable, I have headaches, nose bleeds, and I'm nauseated all the time." These are all common symptoms of Hum suffers. You're going to think one of two things as a doctor, a physician. One is tinnitus and then the other one is you're crazy. That you're driving yourself crazy.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Both of them can kind of be explained away, and they are explained away by this guy named David Deming. He is a geoscientist from the University of Oklahoma. He wrote what is probably the definitive study on the Hum so far, back in 2004.

Chuck: That's right. So Deming, apparently if you look at his research there is another theory, and this is where the U.S. government comes into play. Because there's a couple of theories revolving around the U.S. military and whether or not they are causing this. One is with their High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, HAARP, in Alaska. They transmit RF signals into the ionosphere and-well, should we go ahead and start talking about the frequency ranges? VLF?

Josh: Yeah

Chuck: and ELF? VLF is very low frequency, and those are waves at 0.1 hertz, and the other one is ELF, right?

Josh: Those are extremely low frequencies and they are in the range of the same amount of hertz but their wavelength is up to like a 100,000 meters.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: That's an extremely long wavelength.

Chuck: That's right. People who think, you know, they call them Hum investigators, they believe pretty much that it is VLF and ELF tones that are driving these people crazy. Those tones can drive you crazy; they do have adverse effects on the body. You probably heard about it a lot when it comes to cell phone radiation.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: That kind of thing.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Whether or not ELF and VLF is or are the Hum is what's a matter of much debate.

Josh: It is a matter of debate and it's also kind of a matter of faith because what you're talking about there with ELF and VLF frequencies are tones. Those are radio waves. Radio is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, right?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So, it has been shown, at very, very high frequencies, humans can detect electromagnetic sound. We take it as sound, which is weird because it's not supposed to happen like that but that's how we experience it. It's not like at a high frequency we suddenly see it. We hear it. If you are familiar with the comet 67P that the European Space Agency recently landed on?

Chuck: Yeah, which is crazy.

Josh: That comet was found to emit an electromagnetic clicking sound, which is how we experience electromagnetic sound at a certain frequency. And so, because it's a clicking sound, it's not a hum at all, some people are saying, "Well, that doesn't make any sense. This is a hum. If we can hear it, it doesn't sound like an idling diesel engine, it sounds like a clicking sound or something like that." What's more, what this guy is saying that if it's a very low frequency or extremely low frequency, that's the opposite of how we hear electromagnetic radiation. We hear it at a very high frequency, not a very low frequency, so which one is it? So, yes, it's still a huge matter of debate, even as to whether the Hum, first of all, if it does exist.

Chuck: If it's a single source.

Josh Single source, and then if it is a single source, or any kind of source, is it electromagnetic or is it acoustic? We'll unpack the difference between those things right after this.

[MUSIC]

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Josh: Yeah?

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[MUSIC]

Chuck: So, whether or not the Hum exists. The Canadian government actually-part of the problem is it's hard to get research done on this because a very small number of people experience it and a lot of them are called crackpots.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: So it's tough to get funding for research, but luckily there is a country called Canada that will fund things like this.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Dr. Colin Novak spent a year listening to the Windsor Hum in Ontario, and what they found was the Hum is real and they traced the source in that case to, on the Michigan side of the Detroit River, basically a steel plant on Zug Island.

Josh: Doesn't that sound like an industrial plant island?

Chuck: It totally does. It supposedly generates a lot of VLF waves when they are operating. So in this instance, at least, the Hum was a real thing and they found out it was a tone created from basically an industrial plant.

Josh: Right. They apparently took steps to cut down on whatever energy it was emitting?

Chuck: Yeah, they turned off the Hum machine.

Josh: Right, exactly. All of a sudden some people said, "Hey, that worked." A lot of people said, "That did absolutely nothing, the Hum is still out there."

Chuck: And then the most people said, "I still don't know what you're talking about."

Josh: That wasn't actually the first time government has looked into the Hum. In Taos, New Mexico, there is something called the Taos Hum, and apparently somebody wrote in to complain about it to a local newspaper and all of a sudden hundreds more people said, "Yes, I hear the same thing. I've been hearing the same thing for years. What is going on?" Enough people said something in New Mexico that it prompted an investigation by the University of New Mexico and Sandia Labs, which I think is like a government-affiliated kind of-well, it's a neat research lab. They do all sorts of cool clandestine stuff.

Chuck: Nice. X-Files.

Josh: Very much so. Actually the X-Files mentioned the Hum in an episode called "Drive," yeah.

Chuck: Interesting.

Josh: They talk about it. There was a couple of characters that had to constantly move westward or else they would suffer from the pressure of this Hum that no one else would hear.

Chuck: Let me guess. Mulder believed, Scully did not.

Josh: Exactly. You saw that one?

Chuck: No, I didn't, but you know [LAUGHS].

Josh: So they looked into the Taos Hum and they could never figure out what it was. I think they kind of wrote it off as either mass delusion or a bunch of people had tinnitus, or what have you. Which is, again, that's the easy answer. Like, "You have tinnitus." The problem is, if a person has tinnitus, the sound is internal. Remember there is like the idea that the-

Chuck: And isn't it a high-pitched ringing?

Josh: Yes, usually. It can vary in pitch, but for the most part, you can tell it's internal. With the Hum, everyone who experiences the Hum says, "No, this is external." They are so convinced it's external that they will go out at night, when it's worse and try to find the source of it. They will drive around their city or their neighborhood or walk around and look for what it is that's driving them crazy, and they'll never find it.

Chuck: Yeah. Or they'll turn off the power to their house. I mean, there's all sorts of extreme-and of course, it's all like anecdotal, but people are driven to suicide. Or this one guy who intentionally deafened himself.

Josh: With a chainsaw?

Chuck: Which I'm not sure how you do, I guess you just hold the chainsaw up to your ear for a long time.

Josh: To your ear, yeah, exactly.

Chuck: Possibly even murder, which we will get to in a bit.

Josh: Oh yeah.

Chuck: Which is pretty interesting.

Josh: The point is, is that it's not just something that is bugging people. It is having the Hum. There are people all over the world, that don't know each other, that have never met, that are suffering from something that they hear that other people can't hear.

Chuck: In concentrated areas.

Josh: Yeah, and that's affecting their quality of life. And, I don't know if I ever finished the sentence, which is weird. That means I'm really interested in something.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: Did we say or did I say that people who suffer from the Hum-

Chuck: Oh, you didn't.

Josh: -tend to be in their 50s and older?

Chuck: Yeah, that's one of the markers, between like 50 and 70.

Josh: Okay, so this is something in the favor of acoustic sound.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: So acoustic sound is a compression wave.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: It's something that's carried through and propagates through media. So, it's a vibration in the air, where as an electromagnetics wave comes from an electrical or magnetic, or both, source.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: This is like a vibration. It's a sound wave, it's an acoustic wave, right?

Chuck: Right.

Josh: So as we age, say you get to around 50 years of age, your ability to hear high-frequency and mid-frequency acoustic sound diminishes.

Chuck: Uh-huh.

Josh: Your low-frequency capabilities go undiminished, so it's not like they increase, but comparatively speaking, you get better at hearing low frequencies around age 50.

Chuck: Interesting.

Josh: So what some people think is that if it is electromagnetic then there are some people out there who are capable of hearing electromagnetic waves, while the rest of us can't, and they are being driven crazy by some source that we have yet to identify.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: Or, if it's acoustic, that there are some people out there who are super hearers of low-frequency sound. Which would also kind of do away with another diagnosis that a lot of doctors give people, which is hyperacusis, which to me is worth a whole other podcast. It's another people kill themselves over.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: This heightened hyper hearing.

Chuck: Oh yeah.

Josh: To where just the rustle of clothes is unbearable.

Chuck: Right. Oh man.

Josh: The thing is if you have hyperacusis, it's not just going to be just some hum that you hear and everything else is normal, which is what Hum suffers experience.

Chuck: Uh-huh.

Josh: You would hear everything on this grand scale.

Chuck: Right. You would be like Spider-Man.

Josh: Exactly. So what they think is that there are people who are predisposed to hearing low-frequency sounds way better than other people, and that it comes as their higher- and mid-frequency capabilities diminish with age.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: But again, what are they hearing?

Chuck: Well, that's right. I mentioned earlier the HAARP Program that the U.S. government military is doing in Alaska. The other one that I teased is the TACAMO, the Take Charge And Move Out System. In the 1960s the U.S. Navy basically adopted this program to be able to communicate with submarines, long-range bombers, ballistic missiles during nuclear war, and they use very low-frequency radio waves to do so. It's a real thing, but is it the Hum? Other conspiracy theorists will say that the U.S. government is also using these things to target individuals. Of course, you want to say that's probably bunk but you never know.

Josh: You know what the cool irony is, that Jared Keller points out, is that if the Hum is electromagnetic in nature, a tinfoil hat, an aluminum foil hat, would actually work.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: Because it blocks out about-

Chuck: He had a sense of humor about it, at least, too.

Josh: Right but just a thin layer of aluminum can block out like 98% of electromagnetic waves. That's pretty ironic, that it might actually work. Although I haven't heard whether that helps people with the Hum, if they put on-

Chuck: A tin foil hat?

Josh: -a tin foil hat, yeah, that it would help or not, or if it has. But speaking of TACAMO, if you read David Deming's journal article, it's called "The Hum: An Anomalous Sound Heard Around the World,"and there is a journal called The Journal of Scientific Exploration, which is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that accepts articles on things on the fringe of science.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: Which the Hum most decidedly is.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: David Deming gets into TACAMO and he basically says this is a secret government program, so obviously we can't get any real answers. We don't know how often it works or how often they are transmitting or anything. But we do know, it is a real thing. He correlates some dates when there's upgrades to the system, and then all of a sudden in this one area, around the same time, the Kokomo, Indiana Hum starts.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: So he does a good job of correlating it and I think that's what he settles on. He believes that it's probably the TACAMO program. That this very low-frequency transmission to submarines underwater from airplanes above is being propagated around the world, and that would suggest that it's a global source.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: That it's just some people can hear these radio waves that you're not supposed to be able to hear.

Chuck: Or it's multiple sources, a combined effect, like if you live near an industrial plant that has a machine that's making this sound that maybe certain people are attuned to or not. I don't know.

Josh: Another characteristic is that it's mostly experienced in the country.

Chuck: But see, I just chalk that up to noise pollution being reduced. Like when I worked at a convenience store on the midnight shift. When I worked during the day, I would not notice anything, but when I worked up there at night, at 3 a.m., I would hear the buzzing of the fluorescent lights. It would drive me crazy. I would turn them off and people would think we were closed.

Josh: The thing is you eventually stopped hearing that, right?

Chuck: Yeah, when I left work.

Josh: That's called habituation. So habituation means that you are capable of-so like you would focus on these things the whole time you were there?

Chuck: Well, yeah. In the middle-I wouldn't focus on it but I would notice I would be reading a book and I would just hear that "zzz" sound, you know? But I never noticed it during the day, when the lights were on.

Josh: So when you didn't hear it, that's habituation. Where you're exposed to something, your brain says this is totally-it's not a threat, I don't have to pay attention to it anymore, so anytime, in this context, that I hear that sound, I don't have to become cognizant of it. Now apparently you did. You kind of like fell into cognizance like here or there, and you'd notice it again. But for a normal human being, when you are exposed to something like that over and over again, the less you notice it.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: Like we said, with the Hum, the more you're exposed to it, the easier it is to tune in.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And what that's called-

Chuck: Like you can't escape it?

Josh: No, and not only can you not escape it, you can catch it easier and easier. You can become cognizant of it easier and easier, the more you're exposed to it. That's called sensitization. I guess another explanation for the sufferers of the Hum. They are hearing something. One of the reasons that it drives them so batty is because their habituation levels are low but their sensitization levels are high.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: So they're not able to ignore it, and some part of their brain is-

Chuck: Looking for it, yeah.

Josh: -focusing in on it. And this creates this, I guess a perfect storm of hellaciousness.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] All right. Well, right after this break, I did mention murder, so we are going to talk about one of the more interesting parts of the effects of the Hum, right after this.

[MUSIC]

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[MUSIC]

Chuck: All right, so, I mentioned murder, like I said. One of the things that, what is the guy's name, Steve Kohlhase?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: He's a mechanical engineer and Hum investigator in Connecticut, and I believe he was the one that traced the Windsor Hum to Zug Island. He has done some research that he believes the Hum and others believe the Hum could be responsible for killing other people. Specifically in his case, he actually approached Connecticut State Police investigators after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and he said the Hum, from a nearby gas pipeline, might have driven Adam Lanza to-well, have contributed-to driving him to do something like this. I don't think he is saying this made him crazy so he did this. I think he is saying fragile-minded people could be pushed over the edge. It could be the last straw for somebody.

Josh: Hmm.

Chuck: I don't know how much credence it has, but investigators did at least include that in the documents they released to the public. So, they thought it was worthy enough to put among the 7,000 other documents to release to the public.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: He is not the only one. Remember the Navy yard shooting?

Josh: Yeah

Chuck: In 2013, Aaron Alexis, he fully came out and said, quote, "Ultra low-frequency attack is what I have been a subject to for the last three years, I'm sorry, three months, and to be perfectly honest that is what has driven me to this," end quote. He scrawled and scratched "ELF" on the shotgun barrel that he used to kill 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.

Josh: Yeah, and he scratched "my ELF weapon" on the stock, I think.

Chuck: Yeah, and basically conspiracy theorists would say, "Well, this is clearly driving people to do things like this." Skeptics are going to say, "No, these people are delusional and they're the ones who believe the government is shooting them with these ELF tones and driving them crazy." But either way, it's a little startling that someone would scratch that in their shotgun before they did something like this-

Josh: Agreed, yeah.

Chuck: -and blame it on that, outright.

Josh: But that raises another point, like how exposed was he to those conspiracy theories.

Chuck: Yeah, exactly.

Josh: A lot of people would say that there's a Yahoo group dedicated to the Hum. There's that one World Hum Map and Database and people who go see these things, are they just suggestible and they are like, "Oh yeah, I can hear it too"?

Chuck: Yeah

Josh: David Deming points out that's crazy. The idea that people are tuning into this thing that's having a really diminishing effect on their wellbeing, as part of just a mass illusion or something like that. It kind of goes against the typical psychology of mass illusion, where people join crowds to get some sort of positive benefit or effect from it.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: And you can argue they are feeling a sense of inclusion or whatever by saying, "I hear the Hum too."

Chuck: Even in a very small minority.

Josh: But apparently if you are a Hum sufferer, your life is screwed up and you are not a happy person.

Chuck: Yeah, I will say this. One thing I have noticed about conspiracy theorists is none of them ever believe one; it seems like they believe a lot of them.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: You know? So that's all I have to say about that.

Josh: Well, there's one other thing. So, not only is this driving people crazy, there is evidence that if this does exist, if there is something that, if there's some sort of what's called low-frequency noise that is in the environment-and it is, it's everywhere-but if people are being exposed to it, there's evidence that biologically speaking it can have an impact.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: There just happened to be this incredible, real-world laboratory that sprung up in Portugal in the late '70s because a guy named Castelo Branco was put in charge of the Portuguese Air Force's Maintenance Repair and Manufacturing Plant, it's called OGMA. I don't know a Portuguese accent or else I would do it.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: We'll just call it OGMA. He happened to just be sitting there and he watched an aircraft technician wander around aimlessly, in what apparently looked a lot like an epileptic seizure to this doctor. It was during what's called an aircraft run-up procedure where they are going through all the systems, and this guy was just standing there and all of a sudden he was wandering around. So he looked into it and found that 10% of the workers at this aircraft repair shop were diagnosed with late-onset epilepsy. If you looked at this population and compared it to the population of Portugal at large, you wouldn't expect 10% to have it, you would expect 0.2%.

Chuck: Oh wow. Yeah.

Josh: So the fact that there were a lot of people who were being diagnosed with this really led them to believe that they were exposed to this low-frequency noise, or that it was having a dangerous effect on them. This one guy who was a worker there got really interested in all this and he created a living will. His name was Felipe Pedro, and Felipe Pedro was like, "You cut me open the moment I die and do an autopsy." They found this guy was messed up.

Chuck: Like how?

Josh: His aorta, his heart, was thickened. The walls were thickened inexplicably.

Chuck: Fried chicken?

Josh: Pretty much. But, no, that would be explicable.

Chuck: Oh, so he was a very healthy person then, is what you're saying?

Josh: Apparently what they found doesn't jibe with his lifestyle.

Chuck: Gotcha. All right.

Josh: He was diagnosed with late-onset epilepsy.

Chuck: Uh-huh.

Josh: He died at age 58. He had thickened heart tissue. He had a tumor in his kidney. He had a tumor in his liver. Apparently now, thanks to this guy and his autopsy, he kind of laid the groundwork for this investigation into low-frequency noise being dangerous for humans.

Chuck: Wow.

Josh: Even though we don't feel anything.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: But on a cellular level, being exposed to this stuff has these effects. Apparently, if you have thickening of your heart tissue without any kind of inflammation response, that is a classic sign of low-frequency noise damage. It's what's called vibroacoustic disease.

Chuck: Which certain people may be susceptible to and others are not, in theory.

Josh: Supposedly anyone exposed to it would be susceptible to it.

Chuck: Oh really?

Josh: The way that it ties into the Hum is some people might actually be able to hear what they are being exposed to, while most people might not.

Chuck: So we are all exposed to it, then?

Josh: Yeah. In this article-I can't remember the name of it, but it was basically an overview of this aircraft place by some Portuguese scientist. They said, "It's almost impossible to get a control group to compare, because everybody is exposed to low-frequency noise, just most of us aren't aware of it."

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: It's just everywhere. But it's not considered a nuisance except for that 2 to 11% of poor people who suffer from hearing the Hum.

Chuck: Right, and their accounts vary wildly, as well, so that's tough to study and you can't get funding to study because it's fringe science. Unless you're in Canada.

Josh: They say turn a fan on at night.

Chuck: Oh really?

Josh: That's what one guy does.

Chuck: Huh. Makes sense.

Josh: Yeah, turn on a fan or some sort of-like they need white noise to drown it out, and that helps but-

Chuck: Yeah, get that app, get the white noise app. That's what I sleep to.

Josh: Again, go read the awesome article by Jared Keller.

Chuck: Live Science had a couple of good articles.

Josh: David Deming has "The Hum: An Anomalous Sound Heard Around the World." If this kind of stuff floats your boat, you might want to check out some of our friends' sites, too. There's a great podcast by our friend Roman Mars named 99% Invisible.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Who would be able to explain a lot of the science behind this kind of thing.

Chuck: Oh, did he do one on the Hum?

Josh: No, but it's kind of up his alley. Like the vibroacoustic idea.

Chuck: Yeah, yeah, Roman is great.

Josh: I can totally see him getting into that. I just think that if someone enjoyed that they'd dig 99% Invisible.

Chuck: Agreed.

Josh: And then Damn Interesting. Another great site that would definitely have, probably have something about the Hum on it,

Chuck: Yeah. And watch the X-Files.

Josh: Yeah. Our pal Mulder. Of course you can hang out at How Stuff Works. You can just type "the Hum" in. I don't think it will bring up an article, but see what happens.

Chuck: Yeah, we don't have one yet.

Josh: No. But, yeah, type "Hum" into the search bar and see what comes up. It's just a fun game. And since I said search bar, it's time for listener mail.

[CHIMES]

Chuck: I'm going to call this "Limousine Ranch." "Hey guys, I finally have a story for you after listening for over five years."

Josh: Oh.

Chuck: "I live in super rural South Dakota." Not just the regular rural South Dakota.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: "My town is only about 3,200 people and it is the largest town within a 100-mile radius. The main business here is agriculture and ranching." Not a big surprise. "After I married my plumber husband from St. Louis, we moved back to my little hometown six years ago, where we started a plumbing business. He started a plumbing business. Shortly after moving here we got a call to go to Andersons Limousin Ranch." Limousine Ranch with no E on the end. "After driving out to the country and lots of gravel roads later, he came upon the ranch and failed to see any limos. He said he couldn't figure out where all the limousines were and why there would be a limousine company dealership in the middle of nowhere, on an Indian Reservation. I guess he asked the owners and they explained that they run Limousin cattle on their ranch." Which I looked up. It's a type of cattle from the Limousin region of France.

Josh: Oh okay. They don't look like they are wearing cloaks or anything?

Chuck: No. "My brother and I teased him for quite some time on this. To get a mental image of the absurdity, imagine the vast prairie of Dances with Wolves or Fargo and expect to see a limousine dealership out there."

Josh: Or just a bunch of limousines just kind of meandering around the fields.

Chuck: That sounds like something that would happen in Fargo. That's very Coen brothers-esque. But not Kevin Costner-esque.

Josh: No, he's pretty self-serious.

Chuck: Yeah, he doesn't look like he has much of a sense of humor, does he?

Josh: I don't know. He was in Bull Durham.

Chuck: It's funny-well, yeah, back in the day when he was viable [LAUGHS]. I watched the preview only for that movie Draft Day that he did recently.

Josh: Yeah, I can barely make it through the preview.

Chuck: Dude, the preview built it up. They were like, "I can't believe he is doing it. Is he really going to do this?" It's about the NFL draft and he was like a GM, and they built it up to this thing and finally when it was in the movie theater, the preview, I leaned over to my buddy Scotty, who you know, and I was like, "What does he do? Does he open fire on the room and like shoot people?" Or is it just some sort of trade for a football team?

Josh: It's a trade, right? Yeah.

Chuck: Yeah, but they were building it up like, "I can't believe this is happening."

Josh: Yeah. Did you ever see the movie?

Chuck: No.

Josh: What was Scott's take on it?

Chuck: He just laughed and said, "Yeah, exactly."

Josh: That sounds like our Scott.

Chuck: He's the guy that laughs at things like that. That is from Jennifer Coleman.

Josh: Oh, I forgot we were even doing listener mail.

Chuck: That's right, Jennifer, and you should tease your husband for that. That's pretty funny stuff, and he should stick to the plumbing business.

Josh: Yeah, for real.

Chuck: Not the limousine-company-finding business.

Josh: If you want to mock someone you love on our show, you can tweet to us @SYSKPodcast, you can join us on Facebook.com/StuffYouShouldKnow, you can send us an email to StuffPodcast@HowStuffWorks.com, you also can do the most important thing you'll do today, or any day, go to StuffYouShouldKnow.com.

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Vo: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit HowStuffWorks.com.

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