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  • If you drive down a certain stretch of highway in the California desert, you will hear music.

  • It's supposed to sound a little bit like this:

  • [William Tell Overture, by Rossini]

  • but instead, it sounds like this.

  • [William Tell Overture, by Rossini, but badly out of tune]

  • That was the musical road of Lancaster, California.

  • And as you may have heard, it's a little bit out of tune.

  • A lot of money was spent on that road.

  • It was a publicity stunt for a car company who wanted to show off how clever they are.

  • And doing the calculations for something like that isn't really difficult.

  • A musical note is a vibration in the air at a particular frequency.

  • And those vibrations can be made by a violin string or synthesised by a computer

  • or - in this case - made by vehicle tyres hitting grooves in the road.

  • The closer the grooves are, the faster the vibrations, and the higher the note.

  • So take the speed limit,

  • divide by the frequency of the note you want,

  • and that's how often there should be a groove in the road.

  • And if people travel at the wrong speed, well, it shouldn't really matter.

  • It'll just be like slowing down or speeding up any other piece of music:

  • it'll be in the wrong key, but it'll still sound right to most people's ears.

  • It won't sound like that mess.

  • So what went wrong?

  • At this point, I am indebted to David Simmons-Duffin,

  • an assistant professor of physics at Caltech,

  • whose interests include Quantum Field Theories and playing baroque violin.

  • Because he was, as far as I can tell,

  • the very first person to figure out what went wrong:

  • and the problem was probably the English language.

  • Whoever did the calculations said that the grooves should be so far apart.

  • Let's say, four inches for the first note.

  • And they meant there should be a groove every four inches.

  • But whoever gave the instructions to the work crew

  • said that the grooves should be "four inches apart".

  • And that was interpreted as four inches between the end of one groove

  • and the start of the next one.

  • They didn't include the width of the groove itself.

  • But your ears definitely do include it.

  • The highest note on that section of the William Tell Overture

  • should be one octave higher than the lowest.

  • That means the frequency should be doubled,

  • and that the grooves should be half the distance apart.

  • And they are: if you don't include the width of the groove itself.

  • That error means that every note is distorted not by a fraction of its value,

  • like if you're travelling at the wrong speed,

  • but by a constant amount: by the width of the grooves.

  • The higher the note, the greater the effect of that distortion.

  • And the result is the mess that you are about to hear for a second time.

  • And the really strange part?

  • This is the second musical road built in Lancaster, California.

  • The first one, built by the car company, was too close to residents,

  • who complained about the constant noise.

  • And probably this note here.

  • So the city paved over it and rebuilt it...

  • to the exact, same, wrong blueprints.

  • That's a take.

  • That is a take.

  • Right there.

  • And in order to celebrate that take, I am going to put my foot down.

  • This is an SUV.

  • It doesn't, er... it doesn't do that.

If you drive down a certain stretch of highway in the California desert, you will hear music.


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カリフォルニアのミュージカルロードがひどい音を出す理由 (Why California's Musical Road Sounds Terrible)

  • 23 0
    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日