Lasers Reveal The Secret Of Big Ben’s Distinctive Sound

Posted: Mar 4 2017, 1:17pm CST | by , Updated: Mar 4 2017, 1:21pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Lasers Reveal the Secret of Big Ben’s Distinctive Sound
Photo Credit: Getty Images

For the first time, researchers measure the Big Ben's Bong

The bongs of Big Ben have been echoing across London for more than 150 years. The locals and visitors who walk around the Elizabeth Tower are often fascinated by the peculiar harmonious sound coming from the clock placed in the iconic building.

The Big Ben’s bong is special, but what makes it sound so good? To find out, researchers from University of Leicester have mapped the bongs of Big Ben for the first time. They have used cutting-edge laser technology called laser Doppler vibrometry and 3D computer models to measure the vibrations in the metal of the bell as the Big Ben chimed and showed the different vibration patterns of the bell.

Researchers picked four of the Big Ben’s chimes, taking place at 9AM, 10AM, 11AM and 12 noon and measured the structural dynamics of the bell in a way and on a scale not possible before. The new laser technique allowed the high-density vibrations measurement of the object without touching the surface or losing its accuracy or precision.

Although the tower is not open to general public, team of researchers was given an elusive access to the iconic structure for this study.

“Aside from the technical aspects one of the most challenging parts of the job was carrying all of our equipment up the 334 steps of the spiral staircase to the belfry. Then, to get everything set up before the first chime, we were literally working against the clock,” said Martin Cockrill, a Technical Specialist from Advanced Structural Dynamics Evaluation Centre (ASDEC) at the University of Leicester.

“Many of the vibrations in the metal of the Big Ben are too tiny to be seen by naked eye. But this is what we were able to map using the lasers and not just one or two points on the surface; we were able to get to over 500 measurements across the surface which just wouldn’t have been possible with previous technologies.”

Big Ben, the biggest of the five clocks within the Elizabeth Tower, was originally installed in the building in 1950s and is one of most famous landmarks of London. Measured 8.8 feet in diameter and 7 feet in height, the clock was the largest in the world when installed and is still the largest in UK.

The latest study is a part of a BBC documentary entitled ‘Sound Waves: The Symphony of Physics’ and the results have been revealed during the documentary broadcast this week.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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