Sound Waves: The Symphony of Physics
Dr Helen Czerski investigates the extraordinary science behind the sounds we’re familiar with and the sounds that we normally can’t hear.
Part 1: Making Sound
At the Palace of Westminster, Helen teams up with scientists from the University of Leicester to carry out state-of-the-art measurements using lasers to reveal how the most famous bell in the world – Big Ben – vibrates to create pressure waves in the air at particular frequencies. This is how Big Ben produces its distinct sound. It’s the first time that these laser measurements have been done on Big Ben. At the summit of Stromboli, one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, Helen and volcanologist Dr Jeffrey Johnson use a special microphone to record the extraordinary deep tone produced by the volcano as it explodes. Finally, at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, Helen meets a scientist who has discovered evidence of sound waves in space, created by a giant black hole. These sounds are one million billion times lower than the limit of human hearing
Part 2: Using Sound
Visiting a hidden location buried beneath the hills of Scotland, Helen experiences some of the most extreme acoustics in the world. Here she learns just how much information can be carried by sound. She discovers how sound has driven the evolution of truly incredible biological systems and complex relationships between creatures that exploit sound for hunting – and escaping from predators. Helen demonstrates how sound waves diffract (bend around objects) and in doing so help us sense danger and locate it. Helen explains how we are not limited to passively detecting sound waves; we can also use them to actively probe the world. From detecting submarines to uncovering the secrets of our planet,