Posted in Humor, Music, Physics

Honda Needs a Tune-Up

This is the story of how Honda engineers screwed up a big expensive project with a simple arithmetic mistake, tried to fudge their result with sound editing software, and congratulated themselves for being totally awesome.

When I was a kid, my family used to drive up to The Pinery in Ontario, a beautiful park by Lake Huron. Very scenic. My favorite part, though, was a stretch of road a half-hour outside of the park. To discourage reckless Canadians from barreling past the houses and barns, the local government carved five sets of grooves in the road before every stop sign. Drive over them, and the car would vibrate: “vbvbvbvb… vbvbvbvb… vbvbvbvb… vbvbvbvb… vbvbvbvb.” The faster you drive, the higher the pitch.

My Dad is a musicologist, with a particular interest in tuning. So there was no way he was going to pass up the chance to experiment with this instrument. Every time we approached some grooves, he’d start fast over the first set, and try to slow down by the last set, to play a descending scale: G-F-E-D-C. If there was no oncoming traffic after the stop sign, he’d swing over to the other side of the road and play an ascending scale as we sped up. Continue reading…