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Ringing Oven Rack

Cooking up new sounds or just ringing in your ears?

Australian Curriculum links

  • Science > Physical Sciences > Year 1 > ACSSU020

You’ll need

  • Metal oven rack or bathroom rack
  • Metal tablespoon
  • String
  • Scissors

Try this

  1. Cut two lengths of string to about 60cm in length, and tie them to the top corners of the oven rack.
  2. Wrap the free ends of the string around your index fingers, then stick your fingers in your ear (they don’t need to stick right in, just rest them against the opening of your ear). While standing up, lean forwards slightly so that the oven rack dangles freely in front of you.
  3. Ask another person to strike the oven rack using the tablespoon. What does it sound like?
  4. Now remove your fingers from your ear and ask the other person to strike the oven rack again. Does it sound different?
  5. Repeat the experiment using other kitchen utensils. Try adding many strings to the same oven rack so that multiple people can listen to it at once.

What’s happening?

When discussing the science of music, we often talk about sound waves (or vibrations) traveling through air, but they can also travel through other materials.

The molecules (tiny particles) in liquids and solids are much more closely packed together than they are in gases like air. This allows soundwaves to travel through solids and liquids much more quickly and efficiently than it does through gases.

In this activity, when you put your finger in your ears, the vibrations travel directly up through the metal, to the string and to your ears. If your fingers are not in your ears, the vibrations travel from the metal, to the air around the metal, and eventually to your ear, during which time a large proportion of the vibrations are lost in the air around you.