The Physics of Water and Tibetan Bowls- Part One

Okay,so... the big news is that the research paper on the fluid dynamics of Tibetan singing bowls by MIT Professor John Bush and Denis Terwagne of Belgium's University of Liege has finally been published! Why is this of special interest to me? Well, for one thing because I instigated the study.

Here's how the whole thing happened. Once upon a time there was girl named Rosie who was very captivated by a video called "Cymatics" which shows the work of Hans Jenny and how sound affects matter through various medium, including liquids of varying viscosity and certain non-liquid substances such as lycopodium and iron filings. The different materials respond to sound in their own unique ways according to their physical properties- but ALL of them respond. According to the different frequencies they organize themselves in different (and typically orderly) fashion. As the frequencies change the patterns and structures change.

If you are not familiar with the concept of cymatics take a look at this short video.

Okay, you may have figured out by now that Rosie is me, so I'll continue in the first person just to move things along.

As I was teaching my own sound healing workshops I thought it would be fun to do some of our own simple cymatic experiments so I took a frame drum and put sand on the head of a drum and then toned into the edge of the drum. As soon as I hit the primary tone of the drum the head of it would begin to vibrate through sympathetic resonance and the sand would organize into a pattern. This was cool, fun and interesting but it took a lot of breath!

Eventually I got a Tibetan singing bowl and decided to see what would happen with water in the bowl. What I discovered was that when the bowl was struck with the water in it, it would immediately set up a pattern in the water which would become more complex the longer the bowl was resonated as the waves would begin to cross over each other. The volume also seemed to make a difference. And as I acquired more bowls I also noticed that the pattern was different depending on the size and frequency of the bowl.

But what I noticed beyond that was even more interesting to me. The water would bead up on the surface and would stay on the surface as long as the bowl was resonating- and the beads of water seemed to skitter across the surface! It was bizarre and fascinating to me. It seemed to me that the water was not acting like water- it reminded me of when (we were bad kids) and would break a thermometer and mess with the mercury (quicksilver) which would break up into beads and whiz across the floor.

Then one day about a year and a half ago I got an email with a link to this video. Mind you, by this time I had been observing this phenomena with the water in the bowls for over two years wondering what the heck was going on- seriously thinking things like "Could the sound be changing the molecular structure of the water?"

Stay tuned for Installment Two of this very exciting story!