Applauding is a familiar activity, but, as you stand for an encore in the concert hall, do you think about how you hold your hands and how that affects your clap? That question prompted two scientists to embark on an acoustical exploration of clapping. By testing 11 different ways to hold their hands during clapping, the duo found some interesting results.
The loudest clap — achieving an average of 85 decibels — held the hands at 45 degrees to one another, with palms partially overlapping (A2 in the figure). But the clap that most pleased the ear was a little different (A1+). It kept the 45 degree orientation, but the palms overlapped fully with a domed shape between them. In that configuration, the palms form a little resonance chamber that makes the clap sound deeper and richer. (Image credits: top – G. Latorre, others – N. Papadakis and G. Stavroulakis; research credit: N. Papadakis and G. Stavroulakis; via Physics World)