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Harmonograph

45 44 The KaleiDoPhone squiggles from a vibrating rod Despite the invention of equal temperament, scientists continued to investigate pure ratio harmonics. An interesting nineteenth century precursor to the harmonograph was the kaleidophone, invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1827. Like the harmonograph, it displayed images of harmonics. The simplest version of the device consists of a steel rod with one end firmly fixed into a heavy brass stand and the other fixed to a small silvered glass bead, so that when illuminated by a spotlight a bright spot of light is thrown upon a screen placed in front of it. Depending on how the kaleidophone is first struck, and then subsequently stroked with a violin bow, a surprising number of interesting patterns can be produced a few are shown opposite. The Kaleidophone does not behave like a string, as it is only fixed at one end. Like wind instruments, which are normally open at one end, the mathematics of its harmonics and overtones are slightly more complicated than the monochord or the harmonograph and the positions of the nodes are more variable the lower images opposite show some early overtones. Other versions of the kaleidophone used steel rods with square or oval crosssections to give further patterns. Wheatstone used to refer to his invention as a philosophical toy, and indeed, as we look at these patterns, it is easy to feel wonder at their simple beauty. To make your own kaleidophone, try fixing a knitting needle into a vice and sticking a silver bead or cake decoration ball to the free end. Use or make a bright point light source.
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