Why California’s Musical Road Sounds Terrible

In Lancaster, California, there's a musical road. When you drive over it, it plays the William Tell Overture. Unfortunately, it's out of tune. Here's why.
Thanks to David Simmons-Duffin, who figured this out about nine years ago: http://davidsd.org/2008/12/honda-needs-a-tune-up/ -- he seems to be the first to have figured out not just that it's wrong, but exactly what happened!
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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 . [music]. but instead it sounds like this . [music]. 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 of 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 synthesized by a computer or . in this case made by vehicle tires . hitting grooves in the road the closer . the grooves are the faster the. vibrations and the higher the note so . take the speed limit divided 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 if just be like slowing . down or speeding up any other bit of . music it'll be in the wrong key but . it'll still sound right to most people's . ears 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 that 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 . traveling 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 tape . right there in order to celebrate that . take i'm going to put a foot down . [music]. this is an suv it doesn't it doesn't do . that . .
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