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Video: The Secret of Tibetan Singing Bowls

30 June 2011 7:00 pm
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Credit: Denis Terwagne
Credit: Institute of Physics

Buddhists have used the lulling hum of Tibetan singing bowls for thousands of years to begin and end their meditations. Today, physicists are using these same bowls to better understand fluid dynamics. The bronze alloy bowls are standing bells that resonate when struck or rubbed (right). When filled with water, the liquid dances to the vibrations. In a paper published today in Nonlinearity, researchers examined these hydroacoustic properties in four 5th-century singing bowls from the Himalayas. They rigged a speaker to play tones resonant with each individual bowl and then watched how the water responded at different amplitudes. As the amplitude increased, waves formed on the surface, eventually grew chaotic, then crashed into one another, shooting up droplets (top). At certain frequencies and amplitudes, these droplets appear to float and wander across the surface. Though scientists have extensively studied similar dynamics in wine glasses, this is the first study to do so in singing bowls.

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