Setting the Bloop Straight

The solution to the Bloop mystery sound is finally revealed, and Skeptoid corrects some errors from other episodes.

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Feedback & Questions

Skeptoid #339
December 4, 2012
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Today's episode is a bit different. Every so often, I do a special episode consisting of corrections to earlier regular episodes, and this is one such show. I welcome corrections from any source, so long as they're properly referenced and are in fact real corrections: I don't accept the "My sister saw a UFO so you should retract your episode about Roswell" types of feedback. Every time there are enough corrections to fill a show, you get to hear them. So let's get started.

The big news this time is that one of my early and most popular episodes ever, The Bloop, was finally solved. The Bloop was a mysterious undersea noise detected on NOAA hydrophones in 1997. Oceanographers didn't know what it was, but the press decided it must have been a sea monster and reported it as such. Here's what it sounded like, sped up 16 times since the original was subsonic:

Well, enough other "blooplike" sounds have been heard that we've finally been able to track it down. A clue was the extraordinary volume of the sound that made it audible 5,000 kilometers away. It turns out that the Bloop was consistent with an icequake, the tremendous noise made by a massive floating iceberg as it splits up internally. Many other such icequakes have been recorded, and because of the Bloop's location and time, it was narrowed down to an iceberg that would have been floating off the Pacific coast of Antarctica. Sorry, no sea monster this time, CNN. Some of the other sounds we talked about in the same episode have also been identified, and we'll get to those in a moment.

In my episode on the popular myths surrounding gluten, I talked about what this ubiquitous wheat protein is used for. One of those applications is to boost the protein content of vegetarian foods. I gave imitation meat and imitation cheese as two examples. The only problem with that is that only one of them is right. Gluten is indeed very popular in vegan and vegetarian imitation meat products, but you won't find it at all in imitation cheese. Vegetarian imitation cheese usually contains casein, which is a milk protein; and vegan imitation cheese doesn't even have that. Neither has gluten.

Here is a boner of fine proportions. I did an episode on the historical decline of Arab-Islamic science, and thought I'd cleverly start it off with a couple of quotes from the Quran. In this case, I fell hook, line, and sinker for a couple of quotes that are commonly misattributed to the Quran, but did not think to verify that. One of the quotes I gave was "The scholar's ink is more sacred than the blood of martyrs." It's hard to find its actual source, but it's likely a quote from Hasan al-Basri, an Islamic scholar born in 642 CE. The other quote I gave, "For every disease, Allah has given a cure," appears in various different wordings, and is usually attributed to Abu Hurairah, a companion of Muhammad born in 603 CE, and who is responsible for over 5,000 such sayings of Muhammad's. Neither quote is actually in the Quran.

Time to pull aside the curtain and reveal the secret identity of another underwater sound from the Bloop episode. This one was called the Train:

The Train has also been attributed to ice. In this case, it was a moving iceberg that was dragging along the seafloor at a fairly constant speed. Remember these were sped up 16×, so at its normal speed it was a subsonic rumble. The gaps in the sound are probably when the water depth was deeper and the iceberg was floating free.

In an episode explaining the reasons behind some of the world's creepiest places, we talked about dakhmas, the Zoroastrian towers of silence found in India and Iran. In this practice, the dead are laid atop an exposed stone tower, arranged around a circular pit into which their bones will be swept after the bodies decompose. I said the practice was, in part, to keep the bodies safe from scavenging animals. This it does do, with the obvious exception of scavenging birds — vultures in particular — who have easy access. In Zoroastrian tradition, having the vultures pick the bones clean is considered both a sanitary method of disposing of the remains, and is also the deceased's final act of charity by feeding the birds.

In the episode about vitrified forts, ancient enclosures in Scotland whose stone walls have been partly melted into solid glass, I discussed some of the hypotheses put forth to explain them. One of these was attacks by "Greek fire", which was probably natural petroleum, and was used by the Greeks and Byzantines in battle. I got my BCEs and CEs mixed up, and said that the Byzantines were using Greek fire at about the same time the vitrified forts were made. Nope; the forts date from around 500 BCE and the Byzantines were around 500 CE. However some research does suggest that the Athenians were using Greek fire at the time of the forts, so despite my confused dates, the hypothesis is still a possibility.

Our next underwater mystery sound was nicknamed Julia:

You can tell that Julia quickly drops its frequency and comes to a halt. Julia has been interpreted as an iceberg grounding itself and grinding to a stop, with its dropping frequency resulting from its slowing speed as it became beached.

I made a very embarrassing slip of the brain when talking about the Mexican Day of the Dead, which happens over the two days following Halloween. I called those two dates September 1 and 2. No excuse, just a brain fail; apparently I got the order of the months wrong. I must not have been paying attention in Kindergarten. With apologies to any celebrating Mexicans, the correct dates of the two days after Halloween are, of course, November 1 and 2. Mistakes like this, that are so basic you never even think to check them, are among the easiest to make.

My episode on the Scole Experiment was a critical analysis of what's claimed to be the best evidence yet for the afterlife. It was a series of conventional seances, performed by professional seance mediums, for a group of afterlife enthusiasts who published their experience in their own journal. In the episode, I said that renowned experimental psychologist Richard Wiseman had participated in a single session in order to exercise a little control over one of the claimed phenomena, in which the mediums caused film to be exposed when it was sealed inside a locked box — a box which was later found to be easily openable via a trick mechanism. From various sources, I found there was some question over whether Prof. Wiseman had actually been involved or not, or whether his name was simple being bandied about to lend the seances an air of legitimacy. To clear it up, I asked Prof. Wiseman personally what his involvement was. He replied:

Yes, there is confusion about this. I lent one of the investigators (Montague Keen) a few tamper-proof evidence bags that we had around the lab. Once sealed, these were very tricky to get into without leaving signs of tampering. And that was my involvement. I don't know how he used the bag or what he found, but that was all I did. I never attended a seance because I wasn't invited and had nothing to do with the investigation.

So let the record reflect the facts: Richard Wiseman did not participate in, or endorse in any way, the Scole Experiment.

The next mystery sound from the depths of the ocean was nicknamed the Upsweep, for obvious reasons:

The Upsweep's identity is not as clear cut as the others, but it probably doesn't have anything to do with ice. It's most likely a volcanic vent. It's been heard ever since hydrophones in the area started listening in 1991, and is best heard seasonally, which suggests that it's continuous, as listening conditions change with the seasonal ocean environment.

In the episode on the "phantom time" hypothesis, in which some believe that some number of centuries during the Middle Ages never actually happened but were created as false history by the global elite, I mentioned that around 1700, the French Jesuit researcher Jean Hardouin concluded that most Greek and Roman art and literature were forged by 13th-century Jesuits. Not so; as the Jesuit order was not founded until 1534. In fact, the 13th century monks whom Hardouin believed accomplished this massive forgery allegedly worked under the Holy Roman Emperor, supposedly with the goal of promoting atheism by "paganizing all the facts of Christianity." The mistake of referring to Hardouin's mysterious forgers as Jesuits was mine.

A minor error led to major geographical confusion in my episode on the Betz Mystery Sphere, a metal ball that some believe fell from outer space. The ball was found on Ft. George Island, in Florida. However, my spell checker changed Ft. George to St. George throughout, and I never noticed the change even as I recorded the episode. Florida does also have a St. George Island, but it's on the opposite side of the state. The correct location is Ft. George on the Atlantic coast, not St. George on the Gulf coast.

The last of the Bloop's companion mystery sounds we're going to unmask today was called the Slowdown:

Tip Skeptoid $2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time

It turns out that the Slowdown was the same thing as Julia, a large iceberg coming slowly to rest as it ground along the seafloor in progressively shallower water. The differences between the two are clear. Julia is more sharp and sudden, while Slowdown was much more gradual and consistent. This is likely due to the relative size of the bergs, wind and currents, and the type of bathymetry (underwater topography) upon which they beached themselves.

Finally, in our episode about cleansing diets, we discussed one of the things that happens when you go on such an extremely restrictive diet, which is that your body soon begins to lose muscle mass. This takes place when your body uses up its normal stores of glucose, and has to start breaking down muscle tissue to create more of it. The term I used to describe this process is glycolysis, which is wrong. Glycolysis is the conversion of glucose to ATP, to use as energy. But where does that glucose come from? The word I should have used is gluconeogenesis, which is specifically the synthesis of glucose from molecules that are not sugars, in this case, the amino acids in your muscle protein. The things your body is capable of is a seemingly endless list of amazing feats. But when one of these feats is to eat away your lean muscle tissue, it's time to rethink popular fads like cleansing diets.

My thanks to all of you who continue to send corrections. Podcasts don't research and write themselves, and I can only do so much, along with my team of pygmy marmosets chained to their computers with little watch chains. The world persists in being far more interesting than we know, and working together we'll continue to learn and explore not only the planet and its enclosing universe, but ourselves as well.

Clarification: An earlier version of this failed to specify that the birthdates of the Islamic scholars named were given in CE, which may have caused confusion over whether the Gregorian or Islamic calendar was meant.

Brian Dunning

© 2012 Skeptoid Media, Inc. Copyright information

References & Further Reading

al-Ghazali, A. "Revival of Religious Science." al-Ghazali Website. Muhammad Hozien, 11 Jun. 2004. Web. 16 Jun. 2012. <http://www.ghazali.org/site/ihya.htm>

Colavito, J. "Who Lost the Middle Ages?" Skeptic. 1 Jul. 2004, Volume 11, Issue 2: 66-70.

Editors. "Religion: The Towers of Silence." Time. 1 Apr. 1974, Magazine.

Editors. "Vitrification of Hill Forts." Brigantes Nation. Brigantes Nation, 10 Aug. 2002. Web. 2 Sep. 2012. <http://www.brigantesnation.com/VitrifiedForts/VitrifieedForts.htm>

Editors. "How Glycolysis Works." Anatomy & Physiology. McGraw-Hill Companies, 4 Nov. 2008. Web. 2 Nov. 2012. <http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072507470/student_view0/chapter25/animation__how_glycolysis_works.html>

IWGA. "Wheat Gluten Applications." International Wheat Gluten Association. International Wheat Gluten Association, 16 Jul. 2004. Web. 31 Dec. 2010. <http://www.iwga.net/04_pet.htm>

NOAA. "Sounds in the Sea 2001." NOAA Ocean Explorer. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 12 Jul. 2005. Web. 15 Oct. 2009. <http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/sound01/background/seasounds/seasounds.html>

Wiseman, R., Greening, E., Smith, M. "Belief in the paranormal and suggestion in the seance room." British Journal of Psychology. 1 Aug. 2003, Volume 94, Issue 3: 285–297.

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "Setting the Bloop Straight." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 4 Dec 2012. Web. 25 Nov 2014. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4339>

Discuss!

10 most recent comments | Show all 32 comments

Re Bloop

"Even good Homer nods"

Good work, nonetheless.

John Doherty, Ballyjamesduff, Ireland
December 13, 2012 3:21pm

I was facinated by the "Bloop" and the explanation just makes it more interesting!

D Brad, Los Angeles
December 15, 2012 7:07pm

You bet D Brad!

The Fox Mulder in me had a small funeral for a femtosecond...

Great follow up by Brian (many noises) Dunning

Mud, At virtually missing point, NSW, OZ,
December 18, 2012 1:30am

This is all well and good, but you completely neglected to mention that the sound, while consistent with an ice calving, it is more consistent with the vocal pattern of a mammal. My fear is that you decidedly chose to omit this particular fact in the hopes of drawing more people and furthering your career. Quite shameful if you did; quite lazy you never bothered to research further.

Adam, Australia
December 28, 2012 7:57am

"Quite lazy [Brian] never bothered to research further"? Really, Adam? This episode is a followup to an earlier Bloop episode that Brian both mentions and links to. Brian spends the bulk of that earlier episode going over aquatic mammal and other vocal patterns and making arguments as to why the bloop did not match up with any of them.

Somebody's post is either shameful or lazy, but it isn't Brian's.

Lucy, Claremore, Oklahoma
January 22, 2013 2:12pm

@ Lucy
Hah! Tittering.

Yabeen Sees, Tooleedoo
March 12, 2013 11:34am

Damn, I was hoping the Bloop! was a whale passing wind. :(

That guy, Perth, WA
May 7, 2013 1:45am

Like we haven't heard that before sand groper!

Lucy, spot on.. but you should have nailed him on the physiology of "vocal". Well done!

Mud, sin city, Oz
August 6, 2013 6:50am

I just found this site &find it entertaining. I like the skepticism, but find it interesting how often he uses & makes personal & his own preconceived opinions as if they hold the same weight as fact.

Nancy, Ashland
March 1, 2014 8:36pm

I disagree with a couple of commenters here.
"The Authorities" know darn well it's Cthulhu, but they're hushing it up because they want to avoid world-wide panic.
"They" don't want anyone to know what's coming "when the stars are right" - which will be very soon.
It'll make '2012' look like an afternoon bridge party.

Ron, Calgary Alberta Canada
April 29, 2014 12:54pm

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