Things that go hum in the night


Every so often, I end up writing an essay about why sounds are different at four in the morning and one in the afternoon.

This is one of those essays.

(Sort of.)

Have you ever heard the theory that the world emits a consistent hum?

Itís true. Iím not going to cite it here, but you can go ahead and look for it. There are studies and reports, from a variety of different sources, most essentially saying that there are times when a low noise can be heard.

Some places attribute it to specific conditions. Others to a certain location. A few cite evidence that it happens below a set temperature, and some contradict by saying it needs to be above a set temperature. It might be the time of year. And then there are the skeptics, combatting the studies by debating different sounds being mistakenly attributed to the planet.

Hereís the kickerÖ whether a researcher with findings or a skeptic with doubts, there actually is a fairly consistent result that I keep encountering. Everyone seems to agree there is noise out there, clicking and clacking and rattling and banging in the backgrounds of our lives.

In my house right now, we have a water cooler that switches on and off to chill the water. We have a dehumidifier in the basement. Central air is set, which kicks on to raise (or lower) the temperature inside the house.

There are sounds, and they take place at a variety of times.

I like to ponder why the television can be set for the same volume level, on the same station, even showing the same program, and yet itís like a twisted version of Goldilocks. Too loud during the overnight, too soft during the day, and just right in the evening.

Well, now I find I wonder, what about the planetary hum? What about the skeptics debating the source, but not the existence of sound?

Consider all that background noise. Stuff perhaps too weak or soft or far away to be heard clearly, but definitely in some ways contributing to the general clackity clack. What do I mean? WellÖ

When do you wash your clothes? When do you mow your lawn? Is there a time when youíre more likely to be driving your car (and a time when youíre less likely to be on the road)? All of these random noise generators, in your home and around your neighborhood and interacting with your life. From planes flying overhead to kids playing in the pool next door, noise and more noise and more noise.

And for the most part, as you move around and attack the activities of a day regardless of the time, you probably donít even notice what you might be adding to the artificial hum of your community. But there it is. So subtle you donít even detect it, but enough to drive you to grab the remote and turn up the volume or turn down the volume without an evident reason for why you need to adjust the volume.

My wife is asleep. Iím about to turn on the television, and need to remember to immediately lower the volume when I do. The joys of being awake during the overnight while the rest of the house is quiet.

Or is it?

Dehumidifier is still running. But it is a cool evening outside, and the air conditioning isnít likely to come on. Probably not wise to take my chances. Iíll turn it down.


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