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United Kingdom Technology Science

Electrical Grid Hum Used To Time Locate Any Digital Recording 168

Posted by samzenpus
from the can-you-hear-that dept.
illtud writes "It appears that the Metropolitan Police in London have been recording the frequency of the mains supply for the past 7 years. With this, they claim to be able to pick up the hum from any digital recording and tell when the recording was made. From the article: 'Comparing the unique pattern of the frequencies on an audio recording with a database that has been logging these changes for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year provides a digital watermark: a date and time stamp on the recording.'"
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Electrical Grid Hum Used To Time Locate Any Digital Recording

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  • Re:Still sceptical (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ford Prefect (8777) on Friday December 14, 2012 @04:01AM (#42285029) Homepage

    At the utterly fascinating Georgetown Steam Plant Museum [flickr.com] in Seattle, I learned of the difficulties in getting a (somewhat elderly) generator in sync with the grid. Apparently, get it right and all the other power stations will pull it into the exact frequency - get it wrong, and you'd snap the turbine shaft.

    As for the mains hum, in an undergraduate experiment at Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory [wikipedia.org], I detected intelligent life - on Earth, unfortunately. While running an FFT on a recording of a pulsar, we not only uncovered the spinning neutron star's rotation - we also discovered some not-exactly-mysterious peaks at multiples of 50Hz.

  • Re:Still sceptical (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HungryHobo (1314109) on Friday December 14, 2012 @04:59AM (#42285225)

    well. some people can hear it.

    back when I was in uni the multimedia lecturer was playing tones at different frequencies. "oh, and any of you who've spent too long in the computer lab won't be able to hear this" most of us were stone deaf in a small range around the frequencies put out by electrical equipment.

If it happens once, it's a bug. If it happens twice, it's a feature. If it happens more than twice, it's a design philosophy.

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