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November 1 2012

Singing Sand Dunes Explained


When Marco Polo heard it in China, he suspected evil spirits. When residents of Copiapo, Chile, heard it emanating from a sandy hill, they dubbed the peak El Bramador, for its roars and bellows.

Scientists today call it "singing sand," but they're all referring to the same thing: As sand grains shuffle down the slopes of certain sand dunes, they produce a deep, groaning hum that reverberates for miles.

But how these dunes produce this "music" remains a much debated mystery. Another vexing question is why different dunes sing different tunes—and how can some even sing more than one note at a time?.

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