OxNet North-East – sound as a bell

The OxNet-Ordered Universe 2019 seminar programme is hitting its stride with the 2019 cohort of school students aged 16-17 (Lower Sixth Form, Year 12) from the North-East. Students from Southmoor Academy, St Anthony’s, St Robert of Newminster, and Park View Academy, met this week for the second part of their six-week seminar course, led by Ordered Universe team members, on their expert topics: Richard Bower (Durham) on Cosmology, Brian Tanner (Durham) on Physics, Joshua Harvey (Oxford) on Psychology, Nicola Polloni (Humboldt Berlin) on Philosophy and Translation, Colin Rennie (Sunderland) on Creativity and Giles Gasper (Durham) on History and Religious Studies. These take place in the entirely appropriate setting of St Peter’s Church, Sunderland, rich in its legacy for history of science as one of the home monasteries for Bede.

Claire Ungley, the OxNet North-East co-ordinator had the following thoughts on the second seminar session:

The second OxNet seminar was run by Brian Tanner, Emeritus Professor from Durham University. The seminar began with reading the treatise De generatione sonorum by Robert Grosseteste, who discussed his thoughts on how sound travels through the air. This was followed by a demonstration using a slinky, to observe how sound waves move. We moved onto an observation of how sound is created in musical instruments, including a double bass and trumpet. Students discussed questions such as why strings of the same length cause different sounds, how the shape of an instrument allows sound to resonate, and how a musician’s mouth creates sound when blowing into wind and brass instruments. Students also put forward their own ideas about how the human ear is able to determine differences in pitch, which in fact still continues to baffles scientists. The second half of the seminar focused on optics, and how we can observe light as a wave in everyday life, such as looking in puddles. Students also debated the creation of spectacles, and who truly invented the first pair of glasses. Following on from this, students were asked why modern telescopes are made using mirrors and not lenses. The students came away not only with a broad understanding of physics, but also how studying history can inform future discoveries.

More to come, and we’re so excited to hear more from the students about their thoughts on medieval and modern art and science.

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