Cymatics can be best described as making sound visible
By using sound waves to excite liquids & solids Cymatics reveal a beautiful symmetry
through this interaction. Strange & alien looking patterns emerge evolve and
transform, constantly shifting between states of order and chaos.
The science behind Cymatics
When a surface is subject to vibration it distorts in a non-uniform way with areas
of greater or lesser distortion.
Imagine attaching a stick to the centre of a large floppy piece of card. Now holding
the stick in your hand with the card on top, move the stick directly up and down. The
begins to flex or distort loosing it's flat appearance. The energy from the
movement of the stick radiates outwards from the centre of the card where the
stick is attached
The Chladni Plate
Now repeat this same experiment, this time swapping the piece of card for a rigid metal
sheet and a metal rod in place of the stick. Rather than moving the rod up and down by
hand we attach it to a device which can vibrate many hundreds or even thousands of times
a second. Because the vibration is so fast the distance the rod and plate move up and
down is almost imperceptible and so any distortion is harder to see. If we could amplify
the distortion that's occurring on the surface of the plate, we might see something like this
The red and green areas represent the greatest distortion to the surface of the plate and
in between these two areas, where virtually no movement is happening we get 'nodal
lines' a phrase coined by the scientist Michael Faraday.
When sand is sprinkled onto the plate to reveal these distortions it gets displaced by the
peaks and troughs which push the sand out of the way, causing it to settle along Faradays
nodal lines. The image you see on a Chladni plate is in fact a negative of the wave shape
through the plate as the sand is gathering where the wave is absent, revealing
these beautiful patterns :
With liquid Cymatics this same phenomena causes the surface of the liquid to displace
but instead of sand being used to reveal these peaks and troughs, a light source shining
onto the liquid causes a highlight to be reflected back where the peak of a wave occurs
and no light to be reflected where there is a trough, creating a web-like image of light trails.
Increasing the frequency [pitch] of the vibration creates finer distortions of the liquid surface.
Image use & thanks
Still image of Chladni distortion effect created using Falstads ripple tank applet http://www.falstad.com/ripple/
Chladni plate image: Thanks to Meara O'Reilly. http://www.mearaoreilly.com