Physics That Resonates With Everyone

Chladni patterns mix sound with science

In the late 18th century, musician and scientist Ernst Chladni demonstrated the two-dimensional vibration of a flat plane caused by certain sound waves. Following in the footsteps of Robert Hooke, Chladni drew a rosined bow across the edge of a sand-covered metal plate. When the bow created certain frequencies of vibration, the beautiful patterns above were formed.

When sound travels through a solid medium like a metal plate, certain frequencies will produce resonance. Resonance is the property of a given material to vibrate easily and vigorously at specific frequencies, and the patterns created in Chladni’s experiments represent the nodes between intersecting two-dimensional waves. Every solid material from wood to glass to metal to buildings to our inner ear membranes have a set of frequencies that will cause these resonant vibrations.

Today we use these kind of vibrations to perfect the acoustics of instruments like guitars and violins, and we even see their relatives in the standing waves that underly electron orbitals.

Check out this video for more. Got a violin bow? Try it yourself!


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