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song of the sand dunes

My brother sent me this article about why it is that sometimes sand dunes sing.

DUNE TUNES. For centuries, world travelers have known of sand dunes that issue loud sounds, sometimes of great tonal quality. In the 12th century Marco Polo heard singing sand in China and Charles Darwin described the clear sounds coming from a sand deposit up against a mountain in Chile. Now, a team of scientists has disproved the long held belief that the sound comes from vibrations of the dune as a whole and proven, through field studies and through controlled experiments in a lab, that the sounds come from the synchronized motions of the grains in avalanches of a certain size.

Small avalanches don’t produce any detectable sound, while large avalanches produce sound at lots of frequencies (leading to cacophonous noise). But sand slides of just the right size and velocity result in sounds of a pure frequency, with just enough overtones to give the sound “color,” as if the dunes were musical instruments.

In this case, however, the tuning isn’t produced by any outside influence but by critically self-organizing tendencies of the dune itself. The researchers thus rule out various “musical” explanations. For example, the dune sound does not come from the stick-slip motion of blocks of sand across the body of the dune (much as violin sounds are made by the somewhat-periodic stick-slip motion of a bow across a string attached to the body of the violin). Nor does the dune song arise from a resonance effect (much as resonating air inside a flute produces a pure tone) since it is observed that the dune sound level can be recorded at many locations around the dune. Instead, the sand sound comes from the synchronized, free sliding motion of dry larger-grained sand producing lower frequency sound.

The scientists---from the University of Paris (France), Harvard (US), the CNRS lab in Paris, and the Universite Ibn Zohr (Morocco)---have set up a website (http://www.lps.ens.fr/~douady/SongofDunesIndex.html ) where one can listen to sounds from different dunes in China, Oman, Morocco, and Chile. (Douady et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article;
contact Stephane Douady at douady@lps.ens.fr)

(original article in French)

I couldn't get the link from the article to give me live links to sound recordings, but by searching around the website I did find the this location, where you can actually hear the booming sands. Yes, the whole world does sing, even the rocks and sands.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 20th, 2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
Its a different thing, kinda but we've got beaches with "singing sand" here and there in the maritime provinces, most famously in PEI. I'm going to visit this squeaky beach next month:

Jul. 20th, 2006 03:57 pm (UTC)
How neat! I wish I could go! (Come to think of it, that's more likely than my getting to Morocco, so...)

I checked out the link--but there is no recording! Can you take a recorder and record it?? You've got friends who are musicians and things; they could then upload it...

Well wait, before I put you to the trouble, I should search around and see if I can find one on Google.

Tell me if you see lots of Japanese tourists on PEI--apparently the Japanese have a real fondness for Anne of Green Gables.
Jul. 20th, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC)
Isn't that amazing?? I swear, National Geographic has done a documentary about this phenomenon. I saw it once, long time ago. You could check their website, maybe find an audio file.
Jul. 20th, 2006 03:57 pm (UTC)
I will! I have a recording also on a Pulse of the Planet CD that I have...
Jul. 21st, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC)
wow. that is so nice, have you heard a singing tree before? the redwoods sing sorta. Well you have to sing with them and then they seem to sing with you, inside those hollow ones.
Jul. 21st, 2006 05:35 pm (UTC)
Do you speak French??? Wow!
Jul. 21st, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC)
Oh no, not really--I mean , I studied French in high school, but hardly remember it. But it's cool to see the original article, isn't it?
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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