Can you hear the strains of an imaginary Bing Crosby?

This week’s Feedback column (that I write) in New Scientist magazine has three segments. Here’s how each of them begins:

  • May your daze be merry — A recent study builds on more than half a century of experiments to see whether people think they hear Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas. Crosby’s recording of the song, released in 1942, became enduringly popular. In the 1960s, Theodore Xenophon Barber at the Medfield Foundation in Massachusetts and his colleagues began using White Christmas – and also not using it – as an experimental probe….
  • Seasonal upswing— Do seasonal holidays bring a predictable rise in the total number of alive-and-kicking humans? Research suggests that, firstly, the answer is predictably jumbled, and, secondly, it is likely to be marred by manipulations and errors in birth records….
  • Seasonal downswing—… Do seasonal holidays bring a predictable drop in the total number of alive-and-kicking humans (or, to phrase it more strenuously, a rise in the number who kick the bucket)? Research suggests that here, too, the answer is predictably jumbled and manipulation of the deaths records not only occurs, but sometimes happens to save oodles of money….

Here, for context, is the 1942 recording of Bing Crosby singing White Christmas: