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Acoustic Horn

What it shows:

As a passive amplification device, the exponential horn is amazing. Using a "talking" greeting card as a feeble source of music, the intensity of the sound gets amplified by about 18 dB when the greeting card is coupled to the horn ... a dramatic effect.

How it works:

The multicellular horn is a cluster of eight smaller exponential horns, each with a small mouth to avoid beaming in a large frequency range, but together they form a sector of a sphere large enough to control directivity at low frequencies — the...

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Refraction of Sound

Balloons filled with helium, CO2, or SF6 act as diverging and converging lenses, respectively.

What it shows:

A balloon, filled with a gas different from air, will refract sound waves. A gas denser than air turns the balloon into a converging lens and a lighter gas makes it a diverging lens. An air-filled balloon has little effect.

How it works:

The refraction phenomenon occurs whenever waves travel from one medium to another in which the velocity of the wave changes. The amount of refraction at...

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Double Sound Source Interference

What it shows:

Two loudspeakers, separated about 1.7 meters emit the same tone of frequency 500 Hz and produce a pattern of constructive and destructive interference.

How it works:

At this frequency, the successive positions of constructive interference (maximum intensities of sound) occur approximately every two meters at a distance of 10 meters (which is roughly the middle of the lecture hall). The separation of maxima would be about 2.3 meters at 440 Hz. One way to make the interference pattern evident to the students is to...

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Resonant Fountain Tube

Standing sound waves in a glass pipe are made evident by the fountains of kerosene inside the pipe.

What it shows:

The air inside a very large glass pipe (partially filled with a fluid) is acoustically excited into a standing wave. Once resonating, the locations of the velocity antinodes inside the pipe are dramatically made evident by the vigorous agitation of the fluid, resulting in fabulous foaming frothing fountains of fluid. The velocity of sound can also be determined by noting the resonance frequency and measuring the distance between antinodes....

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Vibrating String

A 1.5m length of string driven at one end and fixed at the other shows standing waves for various driving frequencies.

What it shows

vibrating string

The fundamental is the most dramatically visible state (usually around 15Hz). It's possible to show up to 8 nodes clearly--bearing in mind...

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Inverted Pendulum

A physical pendulum finds stability in its inverted position when driven at the proper frequency and amplitude combination.

How it works

The physical pendulum is a 45 cm x 2 cm x 6 mm (1/4") strip mounted on a ball-bearing pivot and can rotate 360 degrees. Its pivot is driven by a 3/4" stroke Sears Craftsman Auto Scroller Saw (...

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Chladni Plates

Accumulation of sand at nodes of vibrating plate reveals resonance patterns.

What It Shows

A Chladni plate consists of a flat sheet of metal, usually circular or square, mounted on a central stalk to a sturdy base. When the plate is oscillating in a particular mode of vibration, the nodes and antinodes that are set up form complex but symmetrical patterns over its surface. The positions of these nodes and antinodes can be seen by sprinkling sand upon the plates; the sand will vibrate away from the antinodes and gather at the nodes.

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Shattering Wineglass

Large speaker with signal generator/amplifier destroys a wineglass; stroboscopic illumination shows vibration mode.

What it shows:

Sound waves of the right frequency are used to excite a wineglass in one or two of its normal modes of vibration. Stroboscopic illumination makes it possible to actually see the vibrations in apparent slow motion. When the intensity of the sound is increased, the large undulations of the glass exceed its elastic limit and cause it to shatter. This can be done in the fundamental or next higher normal mode of vibration ... a beautiful and dramatic...

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Driven Damped Oscillator

Single air track glider, with and without variable frequency driver, variable damping, and oscilloscope position vs. time display.

What It Shows

With one end of the car attached via a spring to the end of the track and the other end of the car coupled (via a similar spring) to a driving motor, we can see how the car behaves when it is driven below, at, and above the resonance frequency. Markings on the motor help to show the phase relationships between the driver and car at different frequencies. A storage scope tracks the motion of the car (see Setting It Up...

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Circular Motion and Simple Harmonic Motion

Simultaneous shadow projection of circular motion and bouncing weight on spring.

What It Shows

One of the simplest of periodic motions is uniform circular motion. By shadow projecting both uniform circular motion and oscillatory simple harmonic motion onto a screen, one can show that these two seemingly different kinds of motion are actually identical.

How It Works

A 8 cm diameter plastic ball mounted near the edge of a 46 cm diameter disk undergoes uniform circular motion. The disk, oriented vertically, is driven by a 57 RPM motor.1 A large...

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