Phenomena

Making a Bottle Resonate

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If you’ve ever blown across the top of a bottle to make it play a note, then you’ve created a Helmholtz resonator. Air flow across the top of the bottle causes air in and around the bottle neck to vibrate up and down. Like a mass on a spring, the air oscillates with a particular frequency that depends on the system’s characteristics. We hear this vibration as a a deep hum, but in the high-speed video above, you’re actually seeing the vibration as smoke pulsing in and out of the bottle. Helmholtz resonance shows up more than just in blowing across beer bottles; it’s also a factor in many resonating instruments, like the guitar. To learn more about the physics and mathematics of the effect, check out this page from the University of New South Wales. (Video credit: N. Moore)

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