I had some old flowers in a vase and noticed the water had become really stagnant, causing the whole room to smell like a fart. So I tipped out the flowers and the old water, and poured some boiling water into the vase to help clean off all the slime. To my surprise the vase started ringing like a bell! The sound was quite loud, similar to when you run your finger around the tip of a wine glass. I believe the vase is ceramic, I'll attach a picture of it below.

How is this possible?


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Did you fill it all the way to the top? $\endgroup$
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 6:56
  • $\begingroup$ it started making the sound when it was half-filled. but it continued making the sound when it was completely filled. half an hour later, and it was still ringing along, although the timbre had changed somewhat (now more of a percussive ding-a-ling like a school bell) $\endgroup$
    – wim
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ the air column might have become resonating! as compared to earlier case( without water) when it was not resonating. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ I would like to exclude convection--- can you see if you put pepper in the water if it is flowing in rolls? Also, it would be good to know if the sound disappears when you place a lid on the container, and if it is still there when you fill the container to overflowing. I find this to be a hard puzzle. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Oct 8, 2011 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ I have experienced this phenomenon a couple of times, with ceramics. In the cases I saw the vessel was sitting on a smooth surface, and I surmised that the heat from the water caused the base of the vessel to expand, and that caused it to slide against the surface. Similar to the fingernail on a blackboard you got vibration, which then "synced" to the resonant frequency of the vessel. This could be tested by reproducing the scenario with the vessel sitting on different materials. $\endgroup$
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 22:48

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure, but it's possible that the ceramic material was relieving stress. That is, the material had many defects in it's structure (like the ones described in this wiki page), and the heat from the water gave the structure enough energy to relax and heal them. I've witnessed a ceramic cup that started to make bell like noises when I poured myself a tea in it, an. According to a ceramist I know, they "sing" like this when the ceramic pieces are new, and not when they are very old, so that is consistent with the idea that they are due to defects relaxing: once there are few defects left, they can't make more noises.

  • $\begingroup$ ""and not when they are very old, so that is consistent with the idea that they are due to defects relaxing:"" Old pottery has cracks and/or is soaked with water through the cracs, this prevents any "ringing". For china (no porosity) without cracks, You will find "Trevelyan" action at any age. $\endgroup$
    – Georg
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Georg I'm not sure if you mean that it's not the defects that cause the ringing, or just that the absence of ringing with age is not due to a lower number of defects. I can improve the answer, or feel free to edit it yourself. The original question actually interests me, but I thought I had figured it out a few years ago. $\endgroup$
    – Arnoques
    Commented Nov 19, 2011 at 18:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.