The Hum and Pollution by Dr Chris Barnes Bangor Scientific and Educational Consultants email

Revised November 2015


The Hum is briefly described.  Many world Hums remain unresolved by environmental health experts and in these cases the Hum may be regarded as more than just a noise. A quantum biological argument is advanced for the involvement of biogenic and competing geologic magnetite as a bio-hum detector.  Unresolved cases of Hum ought to be more prolific in areas of the world with geologic magnetite pollution or soils or rocks with high magnetic remanence. The work generally supports this hypothesis.  Highly localised environmental testing and subject blood testing might finally resolve magnetic involvement in the  Hum.



The Hum is a highly   geo-sporadic (magneto) acoustic phenomenon which plagues the lives of millions of mainly middle aged people world- wide.    A person who hears or perceives the Hum is referred to as a Hummer and describes it is like the sound of a distant idling engine. Musically minded Hummers tone match the phenomenon at between 30 and 80 Hz with periodic modulations of between 0.5 and 5 Hz, see Deming 2004 [1].


Some Hums have been shown to be due to infrasound and acoustic sound.  However, some Hums remain unsolved. The present author has suggested that these Hums may have a magnetic component on the basis of personal perception, experimentation and experience and that of his wife also a Hummer see [2].  


 The author has previously suggested that biogenic magnetite may be involved in Hum perception.   It is now commonly accepted in molecular biology that there are substantial deposits of biogenic magnetite in the human brain and body  see R. Robin Baker, Janice G. Mather & John H. Kennaugh [3].   Traditional science suggests that there should be no bulk interaction this material capable of opening up of ion channel membrane pores as required for audition and other sensory bio-processes except at huge magnetic field strengths.   However, the very latest ideas in quantum biology and spintronics suggest that bio magnetite has a major part to play in brain and biological systems in general via electron spin interactions with DNA and organic molecules.   A specific example is thought to be magnetic vector potential memorisation in bird navigation [4].

Indeed spin modulated data storage could be a much wider paradigm throughout biology.     

I have certainly  found that some cases of the Hum are linked by quantum mechanical concepts   in that Hum amplitude seems to maximise at certain key distances from radio transmitters according to the electromagnetic Aaronhov Bohm effect, see Barnes [5].  

However, the obvious question has to be if everyone has bio-magnetite in their brain and auditory system, why does everybody not hear the Hum?   


The hypothesis advanced here is that humans can assimilate competing or geologic or synthetic mineral magnetite due to atmospheric pollution or natural erosion of certain rocks and soils.  Geologic magnetite has exactly the opposite CSD (crystal size distribution) to biogenic magnetite, see Arato et al (2005) [6].   Yet it is known to be absorbed via the lungs and can be assimilated into cells including blood cells  [7].

By using these differing microscopic techniques they were able to visualize and detect particles ≤0.2 μm and nanoparticles in red blood cells. They found that the surface charge and the material of the particles did not influence their entering. These results suggest that particles may penetrate the red blood cell membrane by a still unknown mechanism different from phagocytosis and endocytosis.


It is assumed that it is this foreign magnetite that gives rise to a mechanism for Hum perception. If this is the case the Hum ought to maximise in areas of the World where there is large amounts of magnetic particle pollution.  Not much data is available directly on iron and magnetite pollution but these are thought to maximise where PM10 and/or PM2.5 pollution is high(refs).    A few studies have been done on magnetic tree leaf pollution by magnetic susceptibility measurement (Atmospheric EnvironmentVolume 37, Issue 21, July 2003, Pages 2967–2977) Biomonitoring of traffic air pollution in Rome using magnetic properties of tree leaves Eva Moreno,, Leonardo Sagnotti, Jaume Dinarès-Turell, Aldo Winkler, Antonio CascellaIstituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Via Vigna Murata 605, Roma 00143, Italy and also on soils (K.L. Hay).


On this basis the Hum ought to be more prevalent in areas where for whatever reason airborne particulate pollution is high. This may be due to magnetic nano-particles from industry, combustion fly ash, transport (air, road and rail) or even natural erosion of basaltic rocks and soil.    An example of the latter could be the original Taos Hum in New Mexico where the Taos Plateau is known to contain Basaltic rocks with a particularly high magnetic remanence    (  Kathryn J. Murdock, University of Massachusetts - Amherst).   The main minerals here are magnetite, haematite and ilmenite ( iron titanium oxide). The latter two are also weakly magnetic.    It is also known that  nano- particles of the latter two or nano-particles of other magnetic pollutants such as chromium and nickel could be bio-absorbed via the lungs as with geologic or synthetic magnetite but an open mind should certainly be kept as the latter two are major pollutants in some parts of the UK.  Generally, the concentration of airborne   iron compounds exceeds that of chromium and nickel by approximately 100 fold  (Monacia – 2000) and is more comparable with aluminium and lead pollution.   It is perplexing to understand why Defra, although recently making public domain colour contour style map data on all kinds of pollution, do not map Iron pollution? The iron data is available but is harder to interpret.  Similarly the data for other  pollutants of concern such as Barium ad Aluminium.   Defra pollution studies make a play on concluding that there is generally less metal and heavy metal pollution in 2005 than in the period 1994 -1998. Yet for some strange reason there is a huge gap in all their data between 2001 and 2004, the very period when the author and his wife first started to perceive the Hum! Indeed in 2000 it appears that a lot of the data is trending steeply upwards!!  (Final report 2007: 110pp UK Heavy Metal Monitoring Network 2003 - 2005, Project Number EPG 1/3/204). A Spanish study recently found the ratio of the concentration between leaves and wood was elevated for Al, Ba and Fe in pine samples from the polluted sites. The ratio of the concentration in bark or leaves to their concentration in wood  and stated that it might be useful to detect inorganic atmospheric pollutants.( Rossini Oliva S, Mingorance MD Department of Plant Biology and Ecology, University of Seville, Adva. Reina Mercedes s/n, Apto de Correo 1095, E-41080 Seville, Spain.


 Results Hum and Pollution

No experimental work as such is required, other than to collate and compare public domain data of available Hum reports and available mapping with PM2.5 pollution in various sites around the World.  PM2.5 and PM10 correlate well with cardio-pulmonary mortality.   A World map of the latter is shown below:


Figure 1 Cardio- pulmonary mortality World Map.


The peak distribution correlates reasonably  well with World visits to a site for people experiencing the Hum


Figure 2 World visits to internet Hum site.



If one narrows the geographic location down, one can get specific Hum site correlations. 


Consider first the USA.  Taking a satellite derived PM2.5 distribution, figure 3, is very instructive. Two of the USA’s most famous Hum sites are in regions of highest PM2.5 pollution. Yet the original Taos site is not.

This does not rule out natural magnetic remanence as being relevant at Taos. We should remember this map is for higher airborne pollution.


  Figure3; Satellite derived PM2.5 for USA.



Similar comparisons may be made for the UK and Europe, see PM2.5 hotspots map Figure 4 below

Figure 4 : European PM2.5 pollution


 Referring to figure 4 the brighter the colour of spot the larger is the PM2.5 pollution density and so possibly also the magnetic nano-particle density.

In Europe places reported as having the Hum are Germany (Cologne/Koln) Austria and Zurich Switzerland.  Strikingly, these are all places which have red or orange spots on the PM2.5 map.

Figure 5: Britain pm10 Pollution Map Courtesy of DEFRA.  


PM2.5 was not available but all other pollutants shown on DEFRA website including Benzene, CO, Butadiene more or less followed the PM10 distribution. It is reasonable to suppose nano-particle distribution from roads and industry may follow a similar pattern.   

In the UK Largs Scotland is one of the most well-known places for the Hum, also notice how for some unknown reason the Largs region also has the most PM10  in Britain as marked by the orange spot!  

There are also similar spots of pollution around Bristol, Birmingham, Woodlands Durham, Kerry Ireland and Sudbury Suffolk and parts of South Wales.  All have either for a long time or more recently reported the Hum.  Regards magnetic pollution in Woodland Durham there is reference by KL Hay to heavily polluted topsoil around Newcastle and Teeside on the basis of magnetic susceptibility measurements.



 The data generally supports the hypothesis to a large extent. On balance, the Hum is found in places in the world where PM2.5 pollution is high. Iron particulates in the form of geologic magnetite are also high in PM2.5 pollution. Geologic magnetite is foreign to the human body compared with biogenic magnetite and has a different and indeed exactly opposite CSD.  It is proposed that in some individuals this gives rise to a magnetic detection means for the Hum. This in no way detracts from any previous published work of the author regarding signal sources and mechanisms for Hum generation and indeed merely compliments and augments the same.    

 The only way to further validate the hypothesis would be for air and soil analysis at specific Hum locations to be done and for blood magnetite screening with CSD analysis of afflicted individuals.  The work does not rule out the possibility that other magnetic pollutant particles besides magnetite might be bio-assimilated into the human body and take part in the Hum detection process.      

 On a final note the author has commented that the Hum is often perceived loudest in houses of building that contain old steel girders. It is envisioned that in a sense these increase the mutual coupling between the Hum source and the body Hum bio-detector as facilitated by the appropriate magnetite distribution and quantum spintronic arrangement.   


The author wishes to acknowledge his wife and son for continued support in acquiring experimental data through personal experience of the Hum and for valuable discussions thereupon.









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