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Utah Scientists Use Famous Arches’ “Songs” To Bring The Rock To Life

Photo: Jeff Moore

SALT LAKE CITY — It started out as a project to measure how quickly Utah’s arches are crumbling, but along the way Utah scientists caught the rocks…singing.


Jeff Moore, Assistant Professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah, said they measured the vibrations of famous arches to try and determine what how healthy the rock is and what natural and manmade impacts cause the most stress.

Photo: Jeff Moore


“A little bit like if you could go to the doctor and they made one measurement and they compared it to the last time you were there, and nothing changed, and they said everything looks good,” Moore said. “We initially thought it’s only a real damaging event that will cause the frequencies to change, but we found they are changing every day.”

Photo: Jeff Moore

For example, Landscape Arch, in Arches National Park, will register a higher frequency when it’s covered in snow and a lower frequency in the summer time.

“All these ups and downs are relating to stiffening and softening of the arch,” Moore said.

At one point the team decided to increase the frequency and bring the vibrations to a level human ears could detect. Moore said they wanted to learn if their ears could hear something their eyes were missing.

They couldn’t.

“What’s become more fruitful is sharing these sound files. As a tangible product that people can connect with. Some people really connected,” Moore said. “It’s a new way to experience arches as dynamic, lively features. Not just static bedrock.”

Last year they teamed up with sound artist, Jacob Kirkegaard, to turn these recordings into something a little more palatable for a general audience. You can see his project here.

Now they are taking this research to Washington D.C. in April for the USA Science and Engineering Festival. You can hear the full recordings here.