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No. 100: Jul-Aug 1995

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Straight from the horse's ear

Vets at the Animal Health Trust in New Market, UK, had just removed a tumor from the lip of a 5-year-old Welsh pony, when they heard a strange, high-pitched hum emanating from its right ear. The hum was surprisingly loud and quite obvious to the surgical team standing a meter away. The hum's pitch was a steady 7 kilohertz.

E. Douek, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, stated that audible sound coming from ears is extremely rare. Such sounds are usually caused by muscle spasms in the inner ear or throat, or by resonance due to abnormalities in the ear's blood supply.

(Bonner, John; "Humming Horse Puzzles Vets," New Scientist, p. 5, April 29, 1995.)

Comment. This is not the first time we have heard about humming ears. In SF#31*, H. Zuccarelli stated that human ears normally emit a faint reference sound, which mixes with incoming sound to form an interference pattern inside the ear. The resulting "acoustic holograms" allow humans and some other primates to locate the source of a sound without turning their heads. The affliction called "tinnitus" is evidently not involved.

*SF#31 Science Frontiers #31. The book Science Frontiers also contains this reference. It is described here.

From Science Frontiers #100, JUL-AUG 1995. 1995-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987