The Chladni Plate: A Visual Union of Physics and Art
Advisor: Dr. Steve Alexander
What does sound look like? It’s a strange question without a straightforward answer. Most people are satisfied with the notion that sound is a diagram of a sin wave moving through the air when in reality sound is a beautiful geometry of intertwining amplitudes, interfering with each other constructively or destructively, traveling away from the source in all dimensions. We would be blown away by the intricacy if we could only see the symphony of waves around us. While for now this might be impossible, it is possible to sneak a peek of a cross section.
A Chladni plate uses a speaker to vibrate a rigid surface at different frequencies. The rigid surface, usually a glass or metal flat plate, resonates with the speaker and produces an invisible map of wave patterns through the material. When sand is placed on the plate, the grains will bounce around the plate where the resonations are moving the plate up and down and fall to rest in places where there is no resonation. These points of zero motion are called standing waves and when seen, display amazing geometries that illustrate the true beauty of sound.