Saturday Morning Science Experiment: Visualizing Sound Waves (Now With Fire!)

The Ruben's Tube: Proving that basic science concepts are more fun to learn when you add open flames since 1904. Want to build your own? There's an Instructables for that.

Thumbnail image courtesy Flickr user tom_adams, via CC.



  1. Man, and I always thought the original fiery winamp visualiser was just a flight of creative fancy… AWESOME :)

  2. Doesn’t he have the relation between pressure and flame size backwards? He says ‘the lower pressure allows more gas to escape into the atmosphere’, hence larger flames. Doesn’t it make more sense that higher pressure causes larger flames?

  3. I love it! Here’s the first thing I’d play through it if I made one:

    “I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you…Fire!”

    Thanks, Maggie.

  4. This is very nearly a music visualizer. Does anybody have any ideas for making a fast fourier transform out of propane and PVC? :-)

  5. :O If physics had had a lil more fires at school, maybe i wouldn’t have slept through most of it :)
    Thanks for the awesome post Maggie! ^-^

  6. ‘Does anybody have any ideas for making a fast fourier transform out of propane and PVC? :-)’

    i think you’d have trouble getting the spectral breakdown acoustically (doing it digitally would be cheating). helmholz resonators wouldn’t give you enough pressure, and i’m guessing don’t give enough ‘Q’. i’d begin with manometric capsules with specifically tuned membranes.

  7. This is how Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse invented the digital computer in Neal Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon.”

  8. This reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to post for a while. My mate’s teenage son built this device that emits electric sparks in relation to the music on his iPod []. Here is a picture of the device

  9. @ #5 and #9

    He was talking about the pressure outside the pipe, not inside. Hence the lower pressure “allowing” more gas and larger flames rather than, as you would have expected, higher pressure “pushing out” more gas and higher flames.

    He talks about the “standing wave,” which is created by a solid tone. The air pressure in the room is altered by the sound, and when it’s constant it settles into a relatively still pattern. High pressure spots suppress the gas coming out of the tube, and low pressure spots allow a relatively large amount of gas to come out.

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