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Hum generating buzz on the other side of the world

Journalist Takayo Nagasawa of Japan’s national public broadcaster NHK interviews engineering professor Colin Novak about the infamous Windsor Hum.

A University of Windsor engineering professor will be featured in a Japanese science show for his investigation into the source of the infamous Windsor Hum.

A camera crew from Japan’s national public broadcaster NHK made a special trip to campus April 16 to interview and film Colin Novak, an associate professor in the mechanical, automotive and materials engineering department.

Production co-ordinator Takayo Nagasawa said the segment will run as part of an episode focused on the sound of the cosmos and people who make data from sound.

“We found out about the Windsor Hum and we couldn’t tell the story without interviewing Dr. Novak,” she said during a break from filming in the university’s Centre for Automotive Research and Education.

The film crew also interviewed local residents who have been plagued by the hum for the past seven years. In 2013, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade contracted Dr. Novak and Western University to conduct a joint acoustic study.

Novak’s Noise Vibration and Harshness-Sound Quality Group set up low-frequency noise monitoring stations across the city’s west end. The university’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) even lent Novak’s team a research vessel so they could drift up and down the Detroit River with portable infrasound arrays to record noise within the hum’s frequency range.

“What was unique about the Windsor hum was not only the low-frequency nature of the sound but the fact that it could be heard by people over an area greater than 10 km,” Novak said.

Six months’ worth of fieldwork followed by four months of post analysis revealed the hum’s likely source was a blast furnace on Zug Island on the Detroit River.

“Based on all the data that we collected, we determined there's no danger of the sound other than the fact that it’s very annoying and if you're highly affected, it can affect your sleep, etc.,” Novak said. “That brought a lot of relief to people, however, at the same time, people still want it to go away.”

Novak said since then, the hum’s intensity has decreased and fewer people report hearing the disruptive rumbling.

“I can speculate that perhaps those who are a part of the cause of the sound … are taking appropriate process changes to minimize and hopefully eventually eliminate the propagation.”

The segment will air July 5 on NHK’s television show Cosmic Front Next, a program that works to “unravel the universe and the mysteries concerning earth.”