Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Colored Vibrating Sand, Buddhist Singing Bowls and Levitating Megaliths

Please turn down the volume, and appreciate Japanese artist Kenichi Kanazawa making colored sand dance in beautiful geometric patterns. Magic? Perhaps, but not supernatural.

This is version of what is better known as Chladni plates, as the table top is made of a plate of steel which vibrates when he rubs the rubber balls on its border, an effect similar to rubbing a crystal glass with wet fingers. The vibrating top then makes the sand jump and accumulate in nodal patterns.

Which is a perfect opportunity to present another non-quite-magical, but quite amazing phenomenon: Tibetan singing bowls, dating more than 4,000 years ago, which make water boil almost instantly!

Except that they are not actually boiling water, you wouldn’t be able to cook noodles with it. In a way somewhat similar to Chladni plates, and as Nature News Blog explains, what the bowl is doing is making waves in water which at a critical frequency separates and forms little droplets which can jump and even bounce over the rest of the water, making it look like it’s boiling. Check out above and below some wicked videos courtesy of Denis Terwagne and John Bush:

The phenomenon is non-linear and, thanks to LOST, has a very cool sounding name, Faraday instability, due to Michael Faraday himself, a scientific legend.

And speaking of legend, vibration and Buddhist monks, we come to the last link: acoustic levitation of stones, in the legend of monastery construction, Tibetan style.


Tibetan Monks levitate stones by using an acoustic levitation technique with the aid of drums in this 1939 sketch by Swedish aircraft designer Henry Kjellson. Click the sketch for the full fascinating story.

Acoustic levitation is real, and the grains of sand jumping as well as the droplets of water bouncing are a related phenomenon. And given that Buddhist monks had singing bowls which mastered this resonance, could they have levitated giant boulders with drums?

Unfortunately, we know for a fact they didn’t. You see, there’s a limit in the amount of energy a sound wave can carry, beyond which the sound just turns into a shock wave and the more energy you put into it, it simply turns into heat.

Interestingly, you can make shock waves so powerful that could actually make water boil, unlike the singing bowls, for instance, near a hypersonic jet, though that would be a very inconvenient way to cook noodles. But it’s impossible for thin air in resonating sound to make something like a heavy boulder levitate – granted, a very powerful shock wave could move large rocks, but that’s not something you would get with drums. That’s something you would get with explosives, and this is something we already do.

Well, I hope you’ve seen enough real wonders to allow for one adorable legend to remain just a very nice tall tale!

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  2. […] Colored Vibrating Sand, Buddhist Singing Bowls and Levitating Megaliths […]

  3. World’s Strangest | Chladni Plate December 13th, 2012 8:13 am

    […] of musical vibrations, featuring a Tibetan singing bowl, which makes water dance as it resonates. Link -via […]

  4. […] [forgetomori] […]

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