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The Kid Should See This

How many pitches does your mug make? (And why?)

Get a metal spoon and an empty mug in your home, then watch this video with Stanford mathematician Tadashi Tokieda. Try the demonstration for yourself. Does your mug have a handle? What pitch(es) does it produce?

Tokieda enjoys exploring the world through ‘toys’—simple everyday items that, through play, reveal larger scientific concepts. From the Stanford Gazette:

To date, Tokieda has collected, invented, and analyzed more than 100 ‘toys,’ ranging from spinning plastic tubes to small tops, a Slinky to illustrate tension and gravity, a mug and a spoon to tap out bell-like sounds, and glass jars partially filled with rice that roll down wooden ramps at varying speeds because of differences in how the rice moves inside the jars.

In the Quanta video above, Tokieda plays with those aforementioned mug sounds, peculiar pitches that you can hear when clinking on the sides of the mug. What’s happening here? He explains the mug dynamics in the video.

mug pitches
He explains his approach in Quanta Magazine:

Sometimes adults have a regrettable tendency to be interested only in things that are already labeled by other adults as interesting. Whereas if you come a little fresher, and a little more naive, you can look all over the place, whether it’s labeled or not, and find your own surprises…

I like to be surprised, and I like to be proved wrong. Not in public, because that’s humiliating. But in private, I really like to be proved wrong, because that means that afterward, if I come to terms with it when the dust settles, I am ever so slightly smarter than before, and I feel better that way.

Tadashi Tokieda
Watch these sound, physics, and toy videos next:
The Science Behind String Telephones
• The Inverted Glass Harp
• Why does a frozen lake sound like a Star Wars blaster?
• Sound is a vibration, a demonstration
“Balloons look really weird when they resonate.”
• Making sounds visible: Sound vibrations transform colorful sand patterns

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