Seen at science museums, maker faires, and all over the internet, Singing Tesla Coils combine science and music in the most fantastical and memorable of ways. But how do they work? From Physics Buzz:
Sound waves are vibrations of the air around us, which you can make just by clapping your hands or talking. Pitch is just the number of times the air vibrates per second. Higher frequency, higher pitch. Tesla coils are a combination of circuits that output thousands to millions of volts. That high electric field arcs up and out of the coil, filling the air with sparks and making it possible to light up fluorescent lights wirelessly. Certain types of Tesla coils, like the one used here, are putting out hundreds of sparks per second, with a rest between each spark. That’s already a lot like a sound wave. Each spark is pushing on the air and can create a sound. Change the frequency of the sparks and you get an equal frequency wave, hitting your ears like a note of music. The creators had to find a way to move seamlessly between frequencies to make the notes sound distinct, instead of just playing the whole scale.
This is something that we’d like to see and hear in person: The Singing, Ringing Tree was designed by architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu in 2006. It sits on a hill in Lancashire, England, and as the winds blow, the discordant steel pipes “play” the wind. From Wikipedia:
Some of the pipes are primarily structural and aesthetic elements, while others have been cut across their width enabling the sound. The harmonic and singing qualities of the tree were produced by tuning the pipes according to their length by adding holes to the underside of each.
For the two adults in our house, this music brings back some rowdy cartoon cat and mouse tv memories from childhood. For the two kids in our house, it’s an orchestra playing energetic, jazzy music. And happily it’s super entertaining, energetic, jazzy music with slide whistles, hootin’, and hollerin’ to boot.