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Listen and learn about vibrations

IOP listen


We've teamed up with the Institute of Physics to help overcome the stereotypes that surround learning about physics, encourage parents to become great role models for this subject and to inspire children to enjoy learning more about science. Have a go at the activity below to show your child how physics can be relevant to their everyday life.

Did you know that it’s possible to SEE sound?! Follow these steps and you'll see what we mean...

Make your own sound detector

You will need:

Cereal bowl

Cling film

Hundreds and thousands

What to do

  • Stretch a piece of cling film over the bowl. Make sure it is really tight by smoothing out any wrinkles!
  • Carefully add about a teaspoon of hundreds and thousands to the film.
  • Spread them out evenly to complete your sound detector.

To make it work

  • Put your face close to the bowl. Close your mouth and make a really deep and loud hum! Watch what happens!
  • Try changing your hum. What happens if you change the volume (how loud it is) or the pitch (how low or high it is).

How does it work?

When you hum, you push air out of your lungs, through your vocal folds and out of your nose. Your vocal folds are two bands of smooth muscle which vibrate (say vy-brate) when air moves past them. You can feel their tiny shaking movements if you put your hand on your throat as you hum.

Where air touches the vibrating parts of your body, it starts to vibrate too. That makes the air molecule next to it vibrate…which makes the air molecule next to that vibrate…which makes the air molecule next to that vibrate… (you probably get the picture!).

When you hum next to the bowl, you’re making the clingfilm vibrate at the same pitch as your voice. The vibrations spread out across the clingfilm and make the hundreds and thousands dance!

Hundreds and thousands

Find out more about this activity on page 20 of the Institute of Physics’ Discovering Our World activity pack - coming soon!