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Single Pipe Organ

Uses various gasses to play different notes.
  [vote for,

This would be for an exhibit in a science museum like our wonderful Exploratorium here in San Francisco.

It would be a pipe organ that would play various tunes through a single pipe by blowing gasses of different densities through it. Helium for high notes, sulfur hexafluoride for low, air for the middle and whatever other gasses in between.

MIxtures would probably be necessary for "tuning" and you'd have to recycle the gasses to have it run all day every time a museum patron hit the play button, (or it would get kind of pricy) but it would be a interesting way to demonstrate different gas properties.

doctorremulac3, Jan 11 2012

Gas-Tuned Trumpet Gas-Tuned_20Trumpet
Shameless (self-)promotion of a related idea. [Wrongfellow, Jan 11 2012]

Underwater horn Underwater_20horn
Yes yes, let us self-promote! [bungston, Jan 11 2012]

Variable Wind Organ http://www.youtube....watch?v=JxhgZObqlLw
Weights move along the windchest to alter pressure. See annotation. [TomP, Jan 11 2012]


       You could cheapen this by using air of different temperatures. Maybe a chart could show how the density of air at one temperature = some other gas at room temperature. Another cheap gas is steam, also available in a range of temperatures.   

       Pondering further: air at one temperature but different pressures also has different density. I think that different pressures of air could be produced by different rates of flow. This would be fun because there could be pinwheels over the pipe exit which would spin at different rates corresponding with the rate of flow and note produced.   

       Maybe museum-goers could hold their hands over the outflow as well. You would not want that option for the steam pipe.
bungston, Jan 11 2012

       I had thought of the temperature thing but wasn't sure if that would work. I've seen plenty of examples of people talking with helium and sulfur hexafluoride but noted that speaking in the arctic and in the desert sounds the exact same so a range of about 150 degrees doesn't make an audible difference.   

       But maybe you just need bigger temperature differences. That would certainly be more economically feasible than having to replace tanks of gas.   

       You could have a video of the thing I suppose but that's no fun.   

       Doing this on the cheap. Sounds like a good poser for the physics smarties out there. The heat diff is a good one but I think you'd encounter air flow differences that would offset any pitch effects of the varied air density.
doctorremulac3, Jan 11 2012

       Looks like Wrongfellow hit the basic premise first. Not sure if that constitutes baked but I'll leave that up to the audience.   

       Both ideas are pretty neat.
doctorremulac3, Jan 11 2012

       //I think that different pressures of air could be produced by different rates of flow.// [bungston]'s anno.   

       See [link] - The 'Variable Wind Organ' built by a Belgian organbuilder alters the pressure in the windchest by moving weights along it (further from or nearer to a pivot at one side - it is normal to have lead weights on the windchest, but they don't move.) This causes different harmonics to be played, or for just an eerie whoosh sometimes.   

       He has made 3, a prototype, the one in the video and a large one now installed in a church somewhere.
TomP, Jan 11 2012

       Interesting concept +.   

       But if you just blow different gasses through a standard pipe, you won't be able to play a song. Whenever you change gas mixtures, the majority of the pipe will remain filled with the old gas for some time. A large portion of the air flow does not go through the main part of the pipe. That is just a resonator. I suspect that it could take a second or more for the gas inside the pipe to get fully replaced and the pitch to stabalize. The actual time will depend on the pipe size, type, etc. This could still be a very interesting demonstration. If the pipe was made with a clear tube and the different gasses were colored differently (maybe add some "smoke"), it would be interesting to listen to the pitch change while wathcing the gasses get mixed and displaced in the pipe.
scad mientist, Jan 11 2012

       Re arctic vs desert - exhaled air is pretty near body temperature at both sites.   

       Thinking more about things that traverse the pipe - one could use water with different amounts of aeration to affect density.   

       A pipe with options for water, aerated water, steam and different temperatures of air could point downwards into a pool, which would provide visual evidence of the speed with which fluids/gasses were emerging, and also let you recycle.
bungston, Jan 11 2012

       True that about the exhaled air. Temperature would probably be the first place to start. You could compensate for any differences in pressure as necessary. I wish I had time to experiment with this.   

       A question just popped into my head. Would the pitch change or would it just be the same with different octaves? Is the length of the wave in the pipe changing due to the different medium or just the harmonics within that wave?
doctorremulac3, Jan 11 2012

       //Would the pitch change// Yes. The frequency of the sound produced by ordinary fipple organ pipes is directly proportional to the speed of sound of the fluid in the pipe; all harmonics (including the fundamental) are shifted equally, and thus the overall pitch changes. The pitch is therefore affected by the molecular mass and the temperature of the gas.   

       However, pressure alone has no affect on the speed of sound, and therefore no affect on pitch.   

       Blowing harder or softer into an organ pipe affects the loudness, and the timbre (harmonic distribution), even to the extent of the lower harmonics being almost completely missing (as per [TomP]'s annotation). The same effect happens when you bow very fast near the bridge on a stringed instrument, or over-blow on a woodwind.   

       Blowing harder also causes the pitch to rise, but this is caused by end effects rather than the speed of sound within the pipe, as confirmed by the fact that the pitch of short, wide pipes is more strongly affected by blowing force than that of long, thin pipes. (Conversely, the effect on timbre, and the tendency to over-blow, are greater in long, narrow pipes).
spidermother, Jan 11 2012

       Incidentally, the monochord is an ancient device for exploring and learning about vibrating strings, without the complexities of an ordinary instrument. It consists of a single string, whose tension and vibrating length can be varied (e.g. by weights and movable bridges), and is somewhat the string equivalent of this idea.   

       For completeness, your organ pipe (or a different one) could be fitted with a movable piston, like a swannee whistle, so the length and the speed of sound could be adjusted independently.
spidermother, Jan 11 2012


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