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My 6 year-old son asked me to explain the sound barrier. I think I'm ready to explain, but I wanted to know if I could add a little homemade experiment to show visually how soundwaves are generated.

Problem is, I don't know how to show it with a simple enough experiment. Any hint will be great.

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  • $\begingroup$ How about using an speaker? He can touch the cone and feel the vibration that produces sound. It's not visual seeing the wave but maybe a way to show what's happening. $\endgroup$ – Moctava Farzán Apr 21 '16 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I'll try to find if I've got such a speaker at home. $\endgroup$ – Marc Brillault Apr 21 '16 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ A speaker would distort water falling from a faucet to great effect. Better still if you can somehow change the pitch of the sound, and the water falling from the faucet would change accordingly. Definitely a good visual cue, though it may not go any further to explain why it is doing that. $\endgroup$ – Neil Apr 21 '16 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ Hey, that's nice ! I'll definitely try this one ! $\endgroup$ – Marc Brillault Apr 21 '16 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ If he wants a supersonic experience a whip will do it :-) $\endgroup$ – user56903 Apr 21 '16 at 13:00
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This demonstration using the Ruben's tube set-up might help. I always found this to be one of the most exciting visual demonstrations of sound waves.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'll accept your answer since it's the nearest one from a "housemade experiment", though I can't make it in my small apartment :( $\endgroup$ – Marc Brillault Apr 21 '16 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ I prefer this one $\endgroup$ – Dries Apr 21 '16 at 18:47
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Sound waves can be visualised, but I can not imagine how it could be made without special equipment. You can find many related photographs on the internet if you search for the "Schlieren photography".

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  • $\begingroup$ If there is no simple way, I'll use an analogy with a rock and water. $\endgroup$ – Marc Brillault Apr 21 '16 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ A rock falling into water is a single event. You can, perhaps, better illustrate the sub- and super-sonic propagation when you move a tip of a stick over a still water surface. $\endgroup$ – dominecf Apr 21 '16 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ even a simple liquid container on a loud speaker will show the effect of sound waves. see this video youtube.com/watch?v=jwMq8mmqgQ4 $\endgroup$ – anna v Apr 21 '16 at 13:50
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I you have a small speaker then you could lay it down and put a small piece of paper on it.Although not visible to the naked eye, when the speaker is switched on , a small piece of paper placed on the speakers will serve a good way to visualize the movements of air particles. Also to give an idea of the intensity of sound waves the speakers can be brought close and taken farther away to show how the intensity decrease with distance.One of my favorite explanations on this topic is on Khan Academy. A very intuitive approach with logical reasoning in astonishingly lucid language. https://www.khanacademy.org/science/physics/mechanical-waves-and-sound/sound-topic/v/production-of-sound

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