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No. 47: Sep-Oct 1986

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Booming Dunes

"On two occasions it happened on a still night, suddenly -- a vibrant booming so loud I had to shout to be heard by my companion. Soon other sources, set going by the disturbance, joined their music to the first, with so close a note that a slow beat was clearly recognized. This weird chorus went on for more than five minutes continuously before silence returned and the ground ceased to tremble."

P.K. Haff opens his review of booming sands with the above quote from R.A. Bagnold. One would think that since booming sand is not uncommon and scientists can pick it up and take it back to their laboratories, we know all about why it booms so unexpectedly when set in motion down a dune face. Haff relates his own experiments and ties them into the rather large body of previous work on the subject. The factors of dampness, grain size, cleanliness, grain shape and smoothness, etc., have all been examined. But Haff concludes:

"In spite of these experiments and the work of other researchers, it is still not known how booming dunes work."

(Haff, P.K.; "Booming Dunes," American Scientist, 74:376, 1986.)

Reference. Booming dunes are cataloged along with "muscial sands" in ESP14 in the catalog volume: Anomalies in Geology. For ordering information, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #47, SEP-OCT 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987