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Research Question:

What is the effect of the time taken for the sound waves emitted from the tuning fork to complete 1

oscillation on the height of the air column needed to achieve the maximum amplitude of this wave and

what is the velocity of sound measured as a result?

The cover sheet of this lab gives the speed of sound a value of 330 m/s. Therefore, the

theoretical value that can be expected to be inferred from this lab can be 330 m/s. To find this value the

relationship v = f x λ can be used. The theory of resonance can also be applied. Resonance is defined as

the tendency of a system to oscillate at its maximum amplitude. A tube open at one end achieves

resonance at ¼ of a wavelength. Using a glass tube with a vibrating tuning fork on top, the wavelength

can be found by finding the height of the air column when the maximum sound is produced. As the

frequency will already be known, the speed of sound can be calculated using this equation.

From the equation it can also be predicted that the higher the frequency, the lesser the height of

the air column as the speed of sound will always be constant (for our purposes). If we input the same

relationship into the independent and dependent variables, it can also be concluded that the higher the

value for the time taken to complete one oscillation, the higher the value for the length of the air column

as the time taken to complete one oscillation is equal to the inverse of the frequency.

Variables

Independent: The time taken taken for the sound waves emitted from the tuning fork to complete 1 oscillation.

Dependent: Height of the air column needed to achieve the maximum amplitude of the wave.

Controlled:

1. Frequency of the tuning fork

2. Wavelength of the sound wave

3. Level of water in the plastic barrel

4. Angle that the glass tube makes to the surface of the water.

5. Edge of the glass tube.

6. Distance of the vibrating tuning fork above the edge of the glass tube.

7. Altitude of the location.

8. Temperature inside the room

9. Pressure inside the room

Procedure

Apparatus required

• 1 x large plastic barrel

• 1 x glass tube

• 8-12 tuning forks with varying frequencies.

• Metre ruler (± 0.0005m)

• 30 centimetre ruler (±0.0005m)

• A rubber bob which will be used to strike the tuning forks

Safety Precautions

The tuning forks will be struck using the rubber bob so that they do not undergo damage.

Method

• Take a large plastic barrel and fill ¾ of it with water.

• Place a stand next to the large plastic barrel.

• Fasten the glass tube to the stand.

• Loosen the clamp holding the glass tube and let one person (number 1) hold it.

• The other (number 2) should strike the tuning fork and place it 1 cm above the edge of the glass

tube and listen closely.

• Number 1 should keep telling number 2 whether to raise or lower the glass tube in order to

achieve the loudest sound.

• When the loudest sound is achieved, number 2 should fasten the glass tube in place.

• A meter stick should be placed next to the plastic barrel. The meter stick should have flat edges

in order for it to be as perpendicular as possible.

• A 30 centimeter ruler should be used to find the height of the water from the surface of the table

by placing it along the straight lines along the meter stick in order for it to be perpendicular to

the meter stick.

• Use step 9 to find the height of the edge of the glass tube from the surface of the table.

• Repeat steps 1-10 until sufficient data points (8-12) are found.

1. Frequency of the tuning fork: This will be controlled as the frequency will already be given and

assumed to be accurate.

2. Wavelength of the sound wave: Sound travels at a constant speed at one location and therefore, the

wavelength will be kept constant.

3. Level of water in the plastic barrel: The level of water will depend on the height of the stand, the

height of the plastic barrel and the length of the glass tube. The water should be at a level which

does not hinder any data collection and for the ease of calculation should be kept constant.

4. Angle that the glass tube makes to the surface of the water: This should be as perpendicular as

possible, as the value for the height of the air column will be altered if the glass tube is slanted.

5. Edge of the glass tube: The edge of the glass tube should be straight and not protrude to remove any

edge effect.

6. Distance of the vibrating tuning fork above the edge of the glass tube: The vibrating tuning fork

should be kept close to the edge of the glass tube (around 1 centimetre), care should be taken to keep

the distance constant as the glass tube moves upwards and downwards.

7. Altitude of the location: Performing the experiment at the same location should remove this source

of error.

8. Temperature inside the room: The experiment should be done in one period so that the temperature

is as constant as possible. Windows should be kept closed.

9. Pressure inside the room: Again, the experiment should be done in one stretch and the windows

should be kept closed.

Data Collection

Table 1: Collection of raw data: The frequency of the tuning fork that was held over the air column and the

length of the air column for the maximum amplitude measured as a result.

Trial Frequency of the

above the surface of the tube above the surface of the

no. tuning forks (Hz)

table (m) (±0.005) table (m) (±0.005)

1 271.2 0.390 0.694

2 304.4 0.390 0.661

3 320.0 0.390 0.648

4 341.3 0.390 0.632

5 406.4 0.390 0.593

6 426.6 0.390 0.583

7 456.1 0.390 0.577

8 480.0 0.390 0.562

9 512.0 0.390 0.551

Note: The frequency values on the turning forks were taken as 100% accurate.

Data Processing

1. Starting with the given equation v = f x λ (where v is the speed of the wave, f is the

frequency, λ is the wavelength).

2. Substituting f with 1/T and λ with 4h (where T is the time taken to complete one oscillation

and h is the height of the air column), we get

→ v = 4h/T

→T=4h/v

Part 1: The dependent variable was the height of the air column in the glass. The following set of

calculations find the value of this height for each of the 9 data points.

Table 2: The values for the heights of the water level and the edge of the glass above the surface of the

table and using them to calculate the height of the glass tube

Trial no. Height of the water level above Height of the edge of the glass Height of the air column in the

the surface of the table (m) tube above the surface of the glass tube (m) (±0.01)

(±0.005) table (m) (±0.005)

1 0.390 0.694 0.304

2 0.390 0.661 0.271

3 0.390 0.648 0.258

4 0.390 0.632 0.242

5 0.390 0.593 0.203

6 0.390 0.583 0.193

7 0.390 0.577 0.187

8 0.390 0.562 0.172

9 0.390 0.551 0.161

Theory

In order to find the height of the air column of the glass tube, the height of the water level above the

surface of the table has to be subtracted from the height of the edge of the glass tube above the surface

of the table.

Therefore,

Height of air column of the glass tube = Height of edge of glass tube above the surface of the table –

Height of the water level above the surface of the table.

Calculation

Value

For trial 1, Height of air column = 0.694m – 0.390m

= 0.304m

Uncertainty

For adding or subtracting values with uncertainties, the uncertainties are simply added.

Therefore, uncertainty of final value is

= 0.005m + 0.005m

= ±0.01m

Final value

0.304m ±0.01

Part 2: In order to find the independent variable (the time taken for the sound wave to complete one

oscillation) the following calculations can be used.

The values for the independent variable can be found using the frequency values of the tuning

forks.

Table 3: Finding the time taken for the sound waves generating by the tuning fork to complete one

oscillation.

Trial no. Frequency values for the The time taken for these waves

tuning forks (Hz) to complete one oscillation (s)

1 271.2 0.003687

2 304.4 0.003285

3 320.0 0.003125

4 341.3 0.002930

5 406.4 0.002461

6 426.6 0.002344

7 456.1 0.002193

8 480.0 0.002083

9 512.0 0.001953

Note: The tuning forks did not have an uncertainty as they were assumed to be 100% accurate.

Theory

As we had seen in the theory section above, we need to find the inverse of the frequency value in order

to find the time taken for one oscillation.

Calculation

Using trial number 1 we get

=1/271.2

=0.003687s (4 significant figures)

Note: No uncertainty values could be calculated because the frequency values were assumed to be

perfect

Referring back to step 1, the equation being used for calculating the speed of sound is

T=4h/v

The speed of sound can be calculated if T is plotted as the y axis, h as the x axis and then the gradient

will be found to be 4/v.

Table 4: The time taken for the sound waves to complete one oscillation and the corresponding heights

of the glass tube upon achieving the maximum amplitude.

Trial Height of the air column in The time taken for these waves

no. the glass tube (m) (±0.01) to complete one oscillation (s)

1 0.304 0.003687

2 0.271 0.003285

3 0.258 0.003125

4 0.242 0.002930

5 0.203 0.002461

6 0.193 0.002344

7 0.187 0.002193

8 0.172 0.002083

9 0.161 0.001953

Step 4: Finding the value for the speed of sound using the lines of best, maximum and minimum fit.

Gradient = (y2-y1)/((x2-x1)

= (0.002924-0)/(0.24516-0)

= 0.0119769049 (GDC)

= 0.01198 (4sf)

Finding the value for speed of sound

= 4/0.01198

= 333.9 m/s (4sf)

Gradient =( y2-y1)/((x2-x1)

=(0.002924-0)/(0.24516-0.0339)

= 0.012094139 (GDC)

= 0.01209 (4sf)

Finding the value for the speed of sound

=4/0.01209

= 330.9 (4sf)

Gradient = ( y2-y1)/((x2-x1)

=(0.002924-0.0003684)/(0.24516-0)

=0.0104653061 (GDC)

= 0.01050 (4sf)

Finding the value for the speed of sound

= 4/0.0105

=380.9 (4sf)

Conclusion

Looking at the graph, it can be observed that as the time taken to complete one oscillation increased, the

height required to achieve the maximum amplitude also increased as predicted in the hypothesis. After

doing the calculations, the maximum value for the speed of sound was 380.9 m/s, the minimum value

was 330.9 m/s and the value obtained by the line of best fit was 333.9 m/s. These values give us is a

positive error of 13.8% and a negative error of 0.009% and the speed of light to be 333.9 m/s. The final

result is 1.2% off the theoretical value of 330 m/s.

Evaluation

If the final calculated value and the theoretical value are compared, they are found to be quite close to each

other. This shows us that the method used for the calculation of the speed of sound was quite accurate.

However an outlier was found, the positive uncertainty was found to be quite large, and the final value was still

3.9 m/s off. Perhaps some sources of error can be found that outline why this is so and suggestions to the

improvement are made to the method in order to achieve more accuracy.

Sources of error

Random

• Error: Angle that the glass tube made to the surface of the water This could have been affected by the

loosening of the clamp and also because of the fact that 90 degrees was not actually measured.

Solution Measuring this value using a protractor could reduce this error.

• Refraction of light

Error: While measuring the height of the air column, refraction of light through the glass medium could

have given values other that what they really were. This could have affected the calculations as the

height recorded for the air column would have been different.

Solution: A solution for this error would be measuring this value at eye level because no refraction

occurs when the incident ray enters at the normal

Error: Perhaps the existence of the one outlier can be explained by assuming that the one tuning fork

was damaged.

Solution: A solution for this error would have been measuring the frequencies of the tuning forks

beforehand using a data logger so that the actual values are used for best results.

Error: Sometimes it could be hard to judge the height at which the maximum amplitude was reached

because sounds were coming from other experiments that were set up in the same room. This could

impede judgment.

Solution: A solution for this error could be performing this experiment in a separate room

This could have affected the data because in the experiment, the ruler might not have been completely

perpendicular to the metre ruler because the divisions along which the 30 centimeter ruler was placed

were quite short.

Solution: A solution for this could be using a large set square instead of the 30 centimeter ruler so that

more accurate values are measured.

Systematic

Error: While measuring the gradient of the graph it can be seen that the range was quite limited as the

values did not go further downwards as the highest frequency used was 512 Hz.

Solution: If more data points with higher frequencies (and lower oscillation times as a result) were used,

the lines of maximum, minimum and best fit could have been a lot tighter and the positive uncertainty

could have been significantly reduced

Solution: If the error bars had been smaller, perhaps the final values for the speed of sound would have

been more precise. This could have been done using other equipment such as stretching a non-elastic

string from the water level to the edge of the glass tube and then measuring the length. This would have

halved the error.

Error: Due to the fact that the experiment was done in a non-ideal environment, the tuning fork would

have undergone damping effects. Therefore, it could have been difficult to judge precisely the height of

the glass tube where it achieves the maximum amplitude

Solution:A solution for this error could be hitting the tuning fork on the bob every 5 seconds

After some research it was found that temperature had a large role to play in the speed of sound. Perhaps

the calculated values would have been closer to the theoretical value if the temperature was taken into

account while obtaining the theoretical value for the speed of sound. (Source: Speed of Sound

http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/s/speed_of_sound.htm)

• Using more accurate equipment for measuring the change in height such as the string or even

laser equipment..

• Using a larger range of frequencies. If tuning forks with higher frequencies were used, the graph

would have been more accurate.

• Taking temperature into account while finding the theoretical value.

• Taking care to measure all values at eye level.

• Using a set square instead of a 30 centimetre ruler in order to the random error of the ruler not

being perpendicular.

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