I’ve been closely following the story of strange noises from the sky that flared up in January. I wrote about them on Doubtful News (now defunct).
The noises are widespread, varied in type, sometimes able to be explained and sometimes known to be hoaxed. But, because this spate of anomalies (a Fortean Flap, if you will) is in the so-called apocalyptic year 2012, the phenomena has attracted the acute attention of conspiracy theorists, End Times believers, and people just concerned that something weird is happening with the planet.
Though the sky noises phenomena is fading away – the receiving frequency of these claims are lowering like the Doppler effect – reports are still trickling in.
Followers of sky sounds were excited by the news that an actual scientist who sounded like he knew what he was talking about described the causes of strange sounds.
Reposted all over the web as being from an “acclaimed”, “credentialed” and “renowned” professor, unfortunately, this article immediately raised a slew of red flags with me and others who are sensitive to what real science looks like and how not so established ideas try to dress themselves up in sciencey getups. A cursory look revealed that this piece has hallmarks of pseudoscience and creates far more confusion than clarity.
I’m going to walk through quotes from the article which is available here:
STRANGE SOUNDS IN SKY EXPLAINED BY SCIENTISTS on the Geochange journal site (no longer online) (run by Dr. Elchin Khalilov)
1. We have analyzed records of these sounds and found that most of their spectrum lies within the infrasound range, i.e. is not audible to humans.
Right at the start, Khalilov, the professor interviewed, is speaking in vague, sciencey terms. I am flooded with questions.
Which sounds is he talking about? There were many types – booms, roars, hums, mechanical, musical, whooshes.
How did he get the records of these sounds? From YouTube downloads like the rest of us? Who sent them to him? How were they analyzed? This whole section sounds vacuous. I don’t get any value out of it, only more questions.
2. There can be quite a lot of causes why those [acoustic gravity] waves are generated: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, storms, tsunamis, etc. However, the scale of the observed humming sound in terms of both the area covered and its power far exceeds those that can be generated by the above-mentioned phenomena.
Yes, acoustic gravity waves ARE generated from those events. But, I see we are now only talking about humming sounds here. So, we’ve now narrowed the “strange sky sounds” type but cut out all the other sounds. Did we even establish that these hums exist as something that needs an explanation? Some people disturbed by them say they can’t even be recorded. How did he get measurements of them and establish their “area and power”? Did he plot all the hum locations around the world? Can we see that? Are all the hums the same? At least some have been identified as industrial noise. How does that work into the data? Is the data set going to be published? Already, I have more questions than answers from this piece. In fact, I have NO answers, just claims that are missing a foundation.
3. In our opinion, the source of such powerful and immense manifestation of acoustic-gravity waves must be very large-scale energy processes.
“In your opinion”? Based on no evidence then? A lot is assumed here – that there is a single source causing the same hum, that it is caused by acoustic-gravity waves and not something else, that a powerful and immense event occurred.
4. Thus, the effects of powerful solar flares: the impact of shock waves in the solar wind, streams of corpuscles and bursts of electromagnetic radiation are the main causes of generation of acoustic-gravitation waves following increased solar activity.
We’ve had powerful solar flares before, how come a hum epidemic hasn’t occurred previously during a solar storm? And, there is a problem with assuming that those reporting a hum can hear the very low frequency (VLF) noise from an electromagnetic event. Scientists working at the poles don’t report hums. Some people do report aurora sounds and they can be recorded but they are nothing like this. Generation of acoustic gravitation waves have not been demonstrated to result from solar activity so I really do not understand why this is presented as fact. It is very much conjecture that has not been shown to be true.
5. Given the surge in solar activity as manifested itself[sic] in the higher number and energy of solar flares since mid-2011, we can assume that there is a high probability of impact of the substantial increase in solar activity on the generation of the unusual humming coming from the sky.
As I said, there have been episodes of increased and even larger solar activity before, like in 2003, and were widespread sounds reported then? (No, they weren’t.)
How did Khalilov get to the assumption that the increase in solar activity is causing the hum? There is no established connection to this at all. This is made up, complete speculation without data.
6. Meanwhile, the observed increase in solar activity is fully consistent with the forecast of the International Committee GEOCHANGE published in the Committee’s Report in June 2010.
Ah, this scenario he explains fits in with his ideas about a forecast made in this report by a committee in which he took part, under the auspices of an authority that sounds impressive.
Taking a little side track, I looked up this Geochange report which states:
On the basis of statistical data analysis for earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, drift of the magnetic poles and other geological processes it has been demonstrated that the Earth’s geodynamic activity has been continuously increasing over the past 100 years, with this tendency substantially growing in recent decades. This is reflected in the number of casualties and the extent of economic damage caused by natural disasters. The global “energy spike” in endogenous and exogenous processes of the Earth started in the late 1990’s.
Where to start? This report has not been recognized by the scientific community as far as I can see. I can’t find it referenced anywhere but to sites that circle back to Mr. Khalilov. That is suspicious. It’s not coming up in Google Scholar except as a part of conference proceedings (run by his own org). That suggests it was NOT peer reviewed. I have not heard that these are conclusions that have been “demonstrated” to the satisfaction of anyone except perhaps the Committee itself and the people who attend the conferences sponsored by this organization.
But even I know and understand that the reason why “number of casualties and the extent of economic damage caused by natural disasters” is because we now record more earthquakes and more people live in hazardous areas. Actually, I’m going to question the “increased number of casualties” part also because it also could be a factor of better counting, which makes that deceptive.
I’d also call attention to the premier organization for collecting such data, the U.S. Geological Survey who say:
Although it may seem that we are having more earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant.
As more and more seismographs are installed in the world, more earthquakes can be and have been located. However, the number of large earthquakes (magnitude 6.0 and greater) has stayed relatively constant.
I found this horrendous graph in the Geochange report:
It only measures events from 1999 and throws a trendline through it. This is an awful representation of the data, unless you like cherry picking.
Returning from the tangent, I feel much worse about this whole presentation. Nothing is sounding reasonable. But, let’s finish up, back to the main article we go.
7. There is one more possible cause of these sounds and it may lie at the Earth’s core.
I’m confused. He said it was the solar activity. Now, it’s the core? And, only “one more possible cause”? Since when does scientific explanation limit itself that way? Both can be wrong ideas.
8. November 15, 2011 all ATROPATENA geophysical stations which record three-dimensional variations of the Earth’s gravitational field almost simultaneously registered a powerful gravitational impulse.
Is that like a sudden burst of gravity? Did people fall down, not able to get up? Did they weigh more for a moment? I’ve not heard of such a thing so I tried to find some information regarding the specific event and what would constitute or cause a “gravitational impulse”. Nothing came up. I fully understand why gravity varies across the surface of the earth but it doesn’t “pulse”. Would this be a behavior that we haven’t noticed before? That would be odd since we have various sensors around the earth that measure its conditions and this hasn’t been documented? This ATROPATENA project looks to have been going on for a number of years but there are no results from it. Again, no citations are coming up for it except those affiliated with Mr. Khalilov.
9. That huge energy release from the Earth’s core at the end of the last year was some kind of a start signal indicating the transition of the Earth’s internal energy into a new active phase.
How does he know that!? Where has this connection been established? Where is this explained? This is the first I’ve heard of such a thing and I am a geologist. Unless, I’m missing something really big here, this is unsupported speculation. I’m thinking Mr. Khalilov is confusing facts and opinion again.
10. Intensification of the energy processes in the Earth’s core can modulate the geomagnetic field which, through a chain of physical processes at the ionosphere – atmosphere boundary level, generates acoustic-gravity waves the audible range of which has been heard by people in the form of a frightening low-frequency sound in different parts of our planet.
No. I can’t swallow this. Too many sharp edges. I have not seen any information that connects the earth’s core to acoustic gravity waves or that these would be audible as a low frequency sound around the planet. It’s a chain of assumptions that sounds plausible to someone who may not be well-versed in how the atmosphere works. But, the connections made here are from imagination. They have not been established to be genuine.
11. There is no doubt that processes in the core rule the internal energy of our planet, therefore, we should expect by the end of 2012 a sharp rise in strong earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and extreme weather events with peak levels in 2013 – 2014.
NO DOUBT?! I’ve never heard a scientist worth his/her credentials ever say that. And, I don’t even know what “rule the internal energy” means. The way that sentence is phrased suggests that we should not doubt the expected sharp rise in events. I do doubt it, because a committee report that looks more like propaganda than peer-reviewed science is not going to be enough to convince me that our view of the earth is radically different and needs to be adjusted.
And, that’s the end. Thank goodness.
It is so easy for the casual reader to be fooled by the setup and delivery of these stories. I found this piece recirculated on conspiracy forums and on websites like “Signs of the Times”. Audiences for those sites seemed to like it because it was a “Professor” validating their views that the sounds were real and they could be explained. They didn’t take notice that “EXPLAINED BY SCIENTISTS” meant one with creative ideas but without a solid argument to support it. And, they apparently didn’t read the article or get what he was saying. I didn’t get it!
Visitors to Khalilov’s Wikipedia page might be impressed. I’m not so easily impressed by awards, memberships and chairing self-established organizations with fancy names. Lots of people with flawed ideas have credentials, including many PhDs. Just because you have accolades does not mean you are right about everything. Science works on community principles and the community has not endorsed this explanation or even its premises.
I didn’t even pick closely at many of the “facts” stated in this piece because I’m not a geophysicist or a climate specialist. But the numerous flubs, no supporting evidence and poorly constructed claims cause me to label this as worthless, even pseudoscientific. I’ll await any further information on research results that support such allegations. But for now, this is a clear case of “sounds sciencey” but not solid science. This is not the answer to the mysteries of the sky sounds.