Codebreaker

Mystery Russian shortwave signal comes to life

Julia Barton Aug 26, 2010

The blogosphere—well, OK, a select subsection—is abuzz about “The Buzzer,” the nickname for a mysterious Russian shortwave signal that’s been broadcasting continuously since 1982. The Soviet, and now the Russian government won’t say what it’s for, though it seems to be connected to the military. UVB-76, the signal’s actual name, has mostly featured a monotonous repetition of pipping or buzzing sounds. But devoted listeners (trying to imagine…never mind) have heard a few voice transmissions over the years, and even people having conversations off-mike. Then earlier this week, UVB-76 fans were rewarded with a sudden burst of activity, the gist of which you can hear in this clip:

UVB-76 audio clip (MP3)

It’s a series of numbers in Russian, followed by the nonsense word NAIMINA, some names, more numbers, and more nonsense words that native speakers say sound like they should be Russian words, but in fact are not. What’s it all about? UVB-76 devotees on Wikipedia have speculated everything from communications with spies, to a more mundane explanation—the signal helps Russian scientists research the behavior of the ionosphere./jb

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