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Seeing Sound

November 24, 2014

In the video below you can see real life sound waves traveling through air. It’s pretty trippy. And how did they do it? Why, with Schlieren Flow Visualization of course!

If you’ve never heard of Schlieren Flow Visualization, don’t feel bad. The video does a good job explaining the method but just to recap – they utilize some clever tricks to capture a focused beam of light with a camera. Light travels through a medium (in this case, air) and is affected by changes in density of that medium. An extreme example is when a light beam passes through a prism, causing the different wavelengths to diffract into separate colors.

In the case of sound waves, however, there are very subtle changes in air density as the wave causes the air to compress. (It’s these pressure changes that cause your ear drum to vibrate and allow you to perceive sound). Although sound waves aren’t nearly enough to split light into rainbows, Schlieren Flow Visualization provides enough contrast to capture their shadowy forms. It’s neat. My favorite is the firecracker.

Check it out!


From → Physics

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