5th Grade Science Fair: Sound Waves

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5th Grade Science Fair: Sound Waves

Postby hecsan » Sun Mar 18, 2012 9:34 am

Hi, my son picked the science fair project from this website entitled "Outer Space, The Silent Frontier: An Experiment on Sound Waves". We did the experiment. The question is after bringing the water to a boil and put back the bell inside the 250ml flask, we could barely hear the bell sound. In other words, the bell sound was louder before heating up the water than when the water was hot. Was this a correct observation? We were thinking the bell sound should be louder after we boil the water. We are wondering if we are doing this experiment wrong. Please advise. Thanks much. -Hector

[Admin added: Project is at: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Phys_p017.shtml]
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Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2012 9:23 am
Occupation: For Student: 5th grade
Project Question: Outer Space, The Silent Frontier: An Experiment on Sound Waves
Project Due Date: April 2, 2012
Project Status: I am conducting my experiment

Re: 5th Grade Science Fair: Sound Waves

Postby theborg » Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:28 am


A very interesting project. 1st, I would like to say that as scientist; it is our role to put forth a hypothesis and then conduct experiments to prove or disprove that hypothesis. The observations are always exactly what they are. As long as the experiment and results are repeatable, then you can be fairly confident that they are correct observations even if they don't match what you expected them to be.

That being said, I looked at the experiment procedures mentioned. Dry air at normal room temperature and pressure, has a density of approximately 1.2 kg/m^3, while steam (boiled water) has a density of approximately 0.6 kg/m^3. When heating the water, you added energy, causing the water molecules to move around much faster until they change from a liquid to a gas. As the liquid water became a gas (steam), the density of the air immediately above the surface of the water was potentially reduced by 50%, effectively creating a localized vacuum. By sealing the opening of the flask, you prevented dry air from reentering the flask from the outside, thereby maintaining the vacuum. The bell was now suspended inside a container that had about 50% less "stuff" to help propagate the sound wave. You didn't mention it, but I suspect that as the flask (and water/steam) cooled, the sound from the bell became even more quite. This is because as the steam cooled and changed back into a liquid the air around the bell became even less dense (more of a vacuum) and since the stopper was still in place; air from the outside was still unable to get in and take its place. This vacuum sealing effect is used in canning food. With less and less of a medium to propagate the sound wave, the bell would sound quieter and quieter.

I hope this matches your observations and answers your questions. Don't hesitate to post back with further questions.
Hope this helps.

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Project Question: "To explain all nature is too difficult a task for any one man. 'Tis much better to do a little with certainty and leave the rest for others that come after you, than to explain all things by conjecture without making sure of anything." - Sir Isaac Newton
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