« LiberaceI Discover Edward Tufte »
06.24.2002

Strange Noises

A beastly hot night, and the cat is doing pirouettes, trying to catch a moth somewhere. I have been listening to the pleasant 'ping' of the Semant-O-Matic, as people run searches and poke around. Listening and reading the Sunday papers.

And what interesting things there are. For one, the gigantic Arizona wildfire, all fifteen hundred square miles of it, which makes today's McSweeney's post all the more poignant - I love the firefighter letters, I hope he doesn't get hurt in what is turning out to be a terrible summer out West.

I had never really thought about what an enormous thing a forest fire was until I went to Montana last summer, and stayed across the mountains from the Moose fire, which was then on its way to covering 60,000 acres. When the wind blew right, cinders would fall like fat snowflakes, and thick haze would cover half the sky. The sunsets were fearsome - I would have thought of Mordor, had I read the right books by then - and the afternoons got progressively more orange, before fading to a dark grim sooty grey. Terrifying and strange sight, and with the fire still many, many miles away.

--

There are strange noises in the air tonight - for one, people in Kokomo, Indiana are hearing a mysterious hum, and no one knows what it is. Many people can't hear it at all, some have moved out of their homes to get away from it.

For another, investigators scrutinizing the cockpit voice recorders for the China Airlines 747 that broke up with no warning at 30,000 feet are hearing a series of strange thumps in the minutes before the explosion. Explosion? Or what? It scares me that 747's apparently have a failure mode that involves complete structural failure with no warning at high altitude.

And if you fall from such a plane into the sea, you may well be eaten by whatever huge leviathan is making the unexplained noises from the deep. As the better half rightly points out, no one knows what is living down there, or when it will get hungry and come up for a snack.

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