Infrasound and the paranormal

Infrasound and the paranormal

There is no denying that I find the science of sound fascinating. You can find a number of posts on it on this blog; And usually in October, if you called to my house, you’d find me in the middle of test running some new experiments for the Science of Sound workshops I run for the Galway Science and Technology Festival. All this obsession has led me to some really interesting theories, like this one…

Sound can make you see ghosts!


Image credit: Adina Voicu via Pixabay

Normal human hearing is said to be in the range of 20 to 20,000 Hz (hertz). Too high and we tend to feel pain, too low and we appear to hear nothing. There are not too many natural sounds at the higher end of the human hearing range, but there are plenty below the range. These low-frequency sounds are called infrasound and examples include sounds made by elephants and dolphins to communicate long distances, thunderstorms and other strong weather conditions, ocean waves, whistling pipes and even trains travelling on tracks.

We do not consciously hear these sounds, but they do seem to have an effect on our bodies, both physiologically and psychologically. If we consider sound as a vibrating energy then our bodies may be able to detect these vibrations without our conscious awareness. Just because the vibrations are too low for us to audibly perceive them as sound, does not mean that our bodies do not still react to these vibrations. In fact, people  often report feelings of anxiety, panic or fear when exposed to infrasound. This may be explained by a natural unease to a stimulus that we are not consciously aware of; or it may also be a natural response to situations of danger, where such low-frequency sounds are common, such as thunderstorms, earthquakes etc.

There is another phenomenon sometimes connected to these infrasounds… distorted vision, hallucinations and often, reported sightings of ghosts. So what is going on there?

There is a story that an engineer, called Vick Tandy was working alone in a medical lab one evening in the 1980s. There were already reports that the lab was haunted. Vick reported suddenly feeling anxiety, cold and unease with a sense that he was being watched. He then noticed a grey object floating into in his peripheral vision. When he turned to look directly at it, it disappeared, as indeed did Vick, heading straight for home.  Soon after, while again working in the lab, Vick noticed a clamped piece of thin metal foil was vibrating. This awakened the scientist within and he began to investigate. His investigation led to his conclusion that these vibrations were due to sound waves being bounced from wall to wall within the room and resulting in a standing wave at the centre of the room. When he measured the frequency of this sound wave it was about 19Hz, just below the range of audible human sound. Vick was also aware that this was within the frequency range within which the human eyeball resonates. He ultimately deduced that the ‘haunted’ aspect of the lab were a result of infrasound; the feelings of anxiety, cold and doom were the bodies reaction to the specific frequency of sound and the ghost sighting were an optical illusion created by the resulting vibrations of the human eyeball. The source of the infrasound? A newly installed extractor fan!

Tandy used his newfound concept to investigate for low frequency sound waves in other locations, reported to be ‘haunted,’ and reported recording levels of approximately 19Hz at these other sites. Others have tried to investigate Tandy’s theory on infrasound and the paranormal. Some dispute his findings entirely; some claim it is oversimplified and other factors, such as electromagnetic fields, should be taken into account. One study tried to create a ‘haunted room’ using infrasound, but concluded that the results they recorded could be due to suggestiblity.

So it would appear the jury is out on this one, science may not yet have full explained away the paranormal! However, if you ever get a spooky feeling of unease or think you have just seen something ghost like, don’t panic! It might just be your eyeballs resonating in response to some low frequency sound!



Devious dinos turn to science – a Science Wows Dinovember begins

Devious dinos turn to science – a Science Wows Dinovember begins

We woke this morning to find the science equipment had been raided…. by a group of dinosaurs! They were caught red handed… reading the science books (and checking out interesting facts about their relatives), rummaging through the equipment and hoisting themselves up to shelves for better access. The children thought it was great but I am a little worried. What are these dinosaurs planning?

It looks like dinovember might have arrived at the Science Wows house! Let’s hope they don’t get up to too much mischief!

Dino facts

We found this pair reading up on some dinosaur facts…

Did you know that the tail of the Apatosaurus may have acted like a bullwhip, breaking the sound barrier as it did so? These enormous dinosaurs lived more than 150 million years ago and may have used their super sonic tail action for defence, communication or courtship.

Friends in low places

These guys were helping from below;


Helps to have wings

While the pterosaur flew up to prepare the rope….


friends in high places

…and hoist up some back up!

Did you know that, although pterosaurs lived along side dinosaurs (from the late Jurrasic period) they are in fact winged reptiles?


tip toeing through the paint

I really hope they don’t plan on opening any of these paint bottles!


Studying the books

This one seems very interested in electric currents!


helping hand 2

Giving a homo sapien a helping hand!

I think it is going to be a long month with this crew running loose. If you want to keep up to date with their antics follow science wows on facebook, twitter and instagram.

And remember to keep an eye on your household dinosaurs… have you noticed anything unusual?

Reel Life Science Video Competition for Schools

Reel Life Science Video Competition for Schools

Schools, children, parents, teachers… listen up! There is a great competition (by Reel Life Science) running at the moment where pupils from both primary and secondary schools are invited to make a three minute science video with a chance to win €1000 for their school.

The competition is a wonderful way to get pupils, their schools, and families interested in Science from a new perspective… from behind the video lens. Launched last year in Galway the competition was so successful it has now gone nationwide!




The competition is broken down into a number of different categories so there is a lot of scope to develop and document your own favourite scientific topic.



  • ‘The Power of Science’
  • ‘The Food we Eat’
  • ‘Science in the Garden’
  • ‘Our Marine World’
  • ‘The Science of Exercise’



  • ‘Science Heroes’
  • ‘Exploring the Cell’
  • ‘Medicines’
  • ‘Physics in Real Life’
  • ‘Vision’ in partnership with VISICORT

If you need some inspiration there have been a number of guest posts from professionals in each area sharing some of their research or opinions on each topic. You can check them out here.

There is even a post from Dr. How’s Science Wows to help inspire you on the topic of Science in the Garden. However, I enlisted the help of some resident “experts” so you may find it more humorous than inspiring. Check it out here if you want to see what happens when you combine “mischief” and science!

This is a fantastic opportunity and is a very unique competition in Ireland, so please spread the word and get your school or classroom involved.


You can check out the Reel Life Science website for tips, advice and guidelines or follow them on twitter and facebook to keep up to date!

A busy week and forgotten birthdays

A busy week and forgotten birthdays

Last week was a busy week here in the Science Wows household, as I am sure it was in many homes across Ireland. We had the back to school for the older two children and the “starting school” for our youngest. It went really well for him, he practically ran in the door without a backwards glance, but let’s just say his parents needed a lot of extra TLC!

In fact it was such a busy week that other little milestones were completely forgotten. One was Science Wow’s 3rd Birthday! I can’t believe it has been three years already. I have learned so much in those three years and still have much to learn! Each year as I renew my work Insurance and order another set of children’s lab coats I like to reflect on how the year has gone and plan what I would like to achieve for the year ahead.

Dr. How's Science Wows is three years old
Dr. How’s Science Wows is three years old


I love how the last year has gone for Science Wows. Some highlights for me have included...

…being asked back to do birthday parties for the same families (it is a lovely affirmation for me as well as the pleasure to get to know the family a little more and the fun of preparing new experiments to excite and entertain the children)

…working with Cell Explorers on a new project called “Little Cells” , bringing cell biology into classrooms for children as young as four

… working with The Galway Science and Technology Festival which saw Science Wows bring “The Science of Sound workshop” into 16 different primary schools during the two week festival

… joining in the Galway Food Festival with an interactive workshop with lots of food related experiments; the workshop was scheduled for 10 am on Good Friday (Easter) so we were unsure if anyone would turn up. I was delighted when families after family arrived to join in the fun

…. bringing science to children in Summer Camps this Summer; I particularly enjoyed a recent trip to Birr to join the children of SPEAK Ireland; their enthusiasm was infectious, their knowledge impressive, their energy inspiring (I would have happily stayed all day)


I have many aspirations and ideas for the next year for Science Wows… and I am always open to new ideas and suggestions!


It would seem that this three year anniversary was not the only milestone I over looked this week; I just realised that I posted my 200th blog post last Monday. A small milestone but a significant one non the less. The blog is not three years old yet but it  is certainly a project that I hold dear. It has provided me with a platform to develop, explore and express my love of science communication in the written and visual form. The blog too has some highlights for me, this year in particular, so, while I am in a reflective and sentimental mood, I thought I would share a few.

Some of my blog highlight for this year are…

…in February I finally took the plunge and merged my blog and website to a brand new site on word press. It was an exciting and creative project but certainly came with lots of glitches and problems. Some of which I am still ironing out. It has taken me a while to get used to this but finally I can say that I am glad I made the move and love how much I have learned and all I still have to learn.

… I have stopped some regular slots on the blog (Such as the weekly Mystery Creature post) and started some new ones. I have to say, one that I particularly love is the Simple Slice of Science series. I have had great fun creating the graphic side of Dr. Simple and really love the questions from the young and the “not so young” that have come pouring in. The response to the series has been uplifting and I plan to keep writing and developing the series for a long time to come.

… one of the reasons I set up the blog was to create a portfolio of writing and communication and I was delighted that this extended to features on other platforms such as The Journal and even an interview on the radio discussing an article I wrote on “Our earliest memories”

… another highlight of the blog in recent months is finding out that I was nominated in three categories in the Blog Awards Ireland 2014 (Science and Technology, SME and Education) and that I was short listed in all three categories after the first round of judging. Fingers crossed for the next round


All in all I think it has been a great year for Dr. How and my brain is churning in overdrive at the moment planning lots of new projects, ideas, experiments and milestones for the next year ahead.

 Thank you all for your support in so many ways, from reading these blog posts, to sharing your comments, ideas and feedback and of course, for inviting Dr. How to feature at your party, school or event.


For those of you who only know me through the blog, I leave you with a little insight into what else Dr. How’s Science Wows is all about!

Dr. How's Science Wows
Dr. How’s Science Wows




Mystery Creature revealed – The Aardwolf

Mystery Creature revealed – The Aardwolf

Last week’s Mystery Creature was the Aardwolf (Proteles cristata). Although a member of the hyena family, the Aardwolf is closer in size to a fox than a hyena, is a more quiet and solitary animal and has a very restricted diet.

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc
photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

A primarily nocturnal animal, the Aardwolf is more likely to be found resting in burrows during the day. Found is Eastern and Southern Africa, their preferred habitat is open grassy plains. At night they hunt for termites, capable of eating up to 300,000 in one night. Unlike the Aardvark they are not equipped for digging theses insects out of their mounds and instead use their long sticky tongue to pick the termites up from the Earth. Although they feed almost exclusively on termites they have been known to eat other soft bodied insects, and very rarely, small mammals and birds.

photo credit: ucumari via photopin cc
photo credit: ucumari via photopin cc

The Aardwolf is monogamous by nature, a pair will mate for life and the male will play a role in raising the young, usually he will guard the den containing the young cubs. There are usually two to four cubs per litter. They will stay in the company of their parents for about a year, before leaving to find a teritory of their own.

We have finally named the new chicks….

We have finally named the new chicks….

Thanks to all who commented and suggested names for our three new fluffy arrivals. We have had great fun collecting all these monikers.

The list was quite impressive…

The full list
The full list


There was plenty of debate but the panel (i.e. the three children) finally chose their favourites.

So here they are… our ever growing chicks are now called…

Batman, Tiger and Ziggy
Batman, Tiger and Ziggy



They are getting much bigger and more inquisitive, as you can see 😉