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On Infrasound and the Supernatural

(Reposted with permission from here.)

I read in one of my books some time ago about the existence of infrasound; unfortunately, I don’t remember what book that is. Luckily, an article appeared in detailing the same phenomenon, so that means I have something to write about tonight.

I’ll cut to the chase: infrasound consists of a bass sound that is so low as to be nearly imperceptible to the human ear. When detected, infrasound causes affected humans to experience a wide range of effects, including anxiety, extreme sorrow, and chills. (Associated Press 2005)


Yes, I know I just used one of the scariest of all words when it comes to scientific research – “causes.” How dare I, you must be thinking – how dare I.

Unfortunately, I have the research to back it up. International Coolperson of Science Vic Tandy wrote two studies about the phenomenon. So what? Dear reader, the man did what no wuss could manage – actually feel and see a ghost, then go about discovering what made it possible.

It had nothing to do with Whoopi.

That’s just one guy, you might say. Never mind that he went to visit reputedly haunted sites with the goal of discovering whether or not the same infrasound frequencies which produced his experience were present; that he did find them matters not to me, for I believe in sample sizes and dependent variables!


Fine, I can dig that. You know who else can? Two Richards – one called Wiseman, another Lord. Despite the rather unfortunate-sounding names, these two Richards are real scientists; the Wiseman is a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire, while the Lord is an acoustic physicist from the National Physical Laboratory in England.


The two English Richards constructed a seven-meter long infrasonic cannon and set it up in the Purcell Room, a concert hall in South London. They then invited 750 people to report their feelings after listening to pieces of contemporary music intermittently laced sound from the cannon, played a 17 Hz at levels of 6-8 decibels. The respondents indicated a 22% increase in unusual sensations, including those listed previously, whenever the infrasound was playing. The fun part? The same infrasound is suspected to be present in church organ music. Those cavernous, echoing halls and that massive contraption of steel pipe and hardwood? Infrasound.

Considering the suspected link between religious experience and conditions affecting the temporal lobe – an area of the brain with an important role in regulating hearing – I would like to be so bold as to suggest that maybe finding out the truths about our universe has more to do with listening than it does with looking.

The helmet comes with earmuffs.

Posted in Humor, Religion, ScienceComments (5)