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The OscylinderScope
 U.S. Patent No. 5,975,911


The OSCYLINDERSCOPE is an interactive artwork/exhibit that explores the nature of sound

Spin the black and white cylinder and  pluck the guitar strings

When you look at the strings, the wavy lines that you see show you how the strings behave when they vibrate to produce sound. Both the tension and the length of a string effect the frequency of vibration (pitch of the sound). Shorter or tighter strings vibrate faster to make higher tones. Longer or looser strings vibrate slower to make lower tones.

Compare the number of waves that you see on a short or tight string to the number of waves on a longer or looser string. The number of waves that you can count on each string relates to the frequency of vibration.The horizontal distance between the peaks and valleys of each wave reflects the loudness of the sound.

Try pressing the foot pedal to tighten the strings.

What happens to the sound? What happens to the wavy lines?

How does the OscylinderScope  work?

The OscylinderScope uses a moving black and white striped background to show the behavior of vibrating strings.

Stop the drum from spinning.

Notice that it is difficult to see the parts of a string which are in front of a black stripe and easier to see the parts which are in front of a white stripe. When the drum is spinning, your eyes see only the parts which are in front of the white stripes.

Normally, strings vibrate so rapidly that your eyes canít see them. But when the OscylinderScope spins the white stripes pass behind each string from top to bottom, completing many, individual, top to bottom scans of  each  string.

The phenomenon of persistence of vision blends the multitude of top to bottom scans into a single image, the wavy line. The OscylinderScope image is similar to what you might see on the screen of an electronic oscilloscope, which also graphs movement over time.

Related topics:  Persistence of Vision, Scanning, Waves, Oscilloscopes, Pitch, Frequency, Amplitude.

See an OscylinderScope at:

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, MI.
The Arizona Science Center, Phoenix.
Beijing Oriental Plaza, Beijing, China.
The Children's Discovery Museum, San Jose, CA.
The Exploratorium in San Francisco.
The Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland, OH.
GWIZ Gulfcoast Wonder and Imagination Zone Sarasota, FL
Japan Science Foundation, Tokyo, Japan
The McWane Center Birmingham, AL
The Science Museum of Western Virginia at Roanoke
Science World of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada
SciQuest, The North Alabama Science Center, Huntsville.
The Reubin H. Fleet Science Center San Diego, CA
Sport und Schulen, Wolfsburg, GermanyTechnopolis, Belgium.
Technorama Museum, Winterthur, Switzerland.
The Whitaker Museum, Harrisburg, PA.
Wonderlab, Bloomington, IN.

Frequently Asked Questions about the OscylinderScope