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How to Make Music with an Active Volcano

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Meet Mount Etna. Europe’s tallest active volcano, this Sicilian landmark has a knack for inspiring artists. After being referenced by such literary giants as Homer, Virgil, and Jules Verne, Etna also earned a breathtaking cameo in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, when George Lucas’ crew managed to capture some wonderful footage of a 2002 eruption.

Despite this, you might not think that a volcano would have much musical potential. Enter Domenico Vicinanza, an Italian particle physicist best known for developing specialized "sonification" software with which to study Etna’s sub-surface activity patterns. Through this type of data-gathering program, seismic movements are converted into audible sound waves. Doing so helps researchers contextualize local trends—including pre-eruption warning signs.

For a quick example, here’s a 2011 Japanese earthquake sonification:

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. By assigning distinct musical notes to every piece of a given frequency, unforgettable melodies can be crafted. “The principle is quite simple,” Vicinanza explains. “Growing data, growing pitch. Decreasing data, decreasing pitch … the melody changes following exactly the same profile of the scientific data.”

With that in mind, check out this mp3 of Edna’s rumblings as a lively piano rhapsody.

And volcanology’s only the beginning! In 2012, Vicinanza whipped up some rather charming tunes by using information gathered at Switzerland’s CERN supercollider: 

Today, there’s even a scientific sonification YouTube channel (created in part by the University of Michigan), which employs a chorus of algorithmically-programmed instruments. We bet you’ll never imagine solar wind quite the same way again.

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This Just In
Washington, D.C. Residents Pay Tribute to Fallen 325-Year-Old Oak Tree
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Washington, D.C. is perhaps most famous for its historic monuments and buildings, but residents of the city’s Northwest quadrant recently took time to mourn the death of a centuries-old tree, according to NPR.

The sturdy red oak in D.C.’s Shepherd Park neighborhood was 75 feet tall and its trunk was 5.5 feet wide, with sweeping branches that soared over the porch of an adjacent home. Experts believe it first took root in the late 1600s, making it around 325 years old.

Washington, D.C. wasn’t founded until 1790, so the tree predated the creation of the city. Over the centuries, it stood tall amid countless wars, presidents, and national triumphs and tragedies—but it recently fell victim to the ravages of time and gravity when a large section of its cracked trunk splintered off and fell to the ground.

Nobody was injured and property damage was minimal, but the arduous cleanup process took a six-member crew eight hours to complete, according to The Washington Post. They deployed a 100-ton crane to remove the tree—a job that cost $12,000, as two of the tree's base parts weighed 17,000 pounds and 14,000 pounds, respectively.

All that remains of the tree is its stump, which provided experts clues about its age through its rings. John Anna of Adirondack Tree Experts, the company tasked with removing the tree, told the Post that the red oak was one of the oldest trees he’d seen in his 30-year regional career. As for locals, many had enjoyed its shade for years and felt like they’d “lost a member of [the] family,” a former neighborhood resident named Ruth Jordan told the Post.

[h/t NPR]

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Paris to Turn Its Parks and Gardens into 24-Hour Summer Attractions
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If you're visiting Paris this summer, consider packing a picnic basket. As Travel + Leisure reports, city officials will launch a two-month initiative in July to keep 16 of the metro area’s largest parks and gardens open 24 hours a day.

Called "Les Jardins Nocturnes" (the Night Gardens), the event will run from July 1 through September 3. Nature lovers can enjoy moonlit green spaces like the Parc des Buttes Chaumont—which has a Roman temple replica perched atop a cliff, overlooking a man-made lake—and the sweeping green lawns of the Parc Montsouris in the city’s 14th arrondissement.

More than 130 of Paris’s smaller parks and gardens are already open to the public during the evening. Once Les Jardins Nocturnes begins in July, nearly half of all of the city's green spaces will go 24/7. According to officials, the seasonal initiative is intended to help Parisians enjoy the city’s natural attractions after work, and take summer strolls during the cooler evening hours.

City parks aren’t always the safest places at night, which is why security teams will be deployed to keep an eye on late-night patrons. But while you're embarking on evening nature excursions, make sure to mind your manners: In 2016, Paris launched a similar parks program, and nearly 700 residents near the Parc Montsouris signed a protest petition complaining about excessive noise and litter.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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