Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Musical Tesla Coils

Will Tesla Coils make their way to Best Buy shelves this year? It's unlikely that they'll trump an iPod on sound quality, but you can’t beat the visuals.

That singing highway was awesome (see the Nov. 13 entry), but I think it’s strongly challenged by today’s feature: The Musical Tesla Coils. Manipulation of Tesla coils to make noise has been done before, but this takes the cake. What you’re hearing is the theme from Super Mario Brothers, created by an output of plasma pushing on the air as it's frequency is changed.

Also check out "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" and others:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Opf5jIukSBM&feature=related

Sound waves are vibrations of the air around us, which you can make just by clapping your hands or talking. Pitch is just the number of times the air vibrates per second. Higher frequency, higher pitch. Tesla coils are a combination of circuits that output thousands to millions of volts. That high electric field arcs up and out of the coil, filling the air with sparks and making it possible to light up fluorescent lights wirelessly. Certain types of Tesla coils, like the one used here, are putting out hundreds of sparks per second, with a rest between each spark. That's already a lot like a sound wave. Each spark is pushing on the air and can create a sound. Change the frequency of the sparks and you get an equal frequency wave, hitting your ears like a note of music. The creators had to find a way to move seamlessly between frequencies to make the notes sound distinct, instead of just playing the whole scale.

The creators and musicians Jeff Larson and Steve Ward have a website explaining how to make your own musical tesla coil, if you have the means.
http://www.stevehv.4hv.org/MusicalSSTCs.htm

Another example of the creativity that comes with such heavy machinery: the Tesladownunders Car Theft Protection (this is not an altered photo).

From http://tesladownunder.com/tesla_coil_sparks.htm.

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