Can Sound Break Glass?

When you read the title you must not presume that I’m an expert  physicist. Though physics has always fascinated me, I chose a career which do not require physics in the main stream. So don’t expect this post to enlighten you with laws and theorems and authentically prove the facts.

Last year I was sharing a rented apartment with a friend. My land lady was so generous that she let us use all her furniture and her home appliances. Among them where an beautiful office table with a thin glass mounted atop wooden plank. The plank was a bit old with uneven shallow area in the middle. But the glass masked the defect and I was using it as a reading table.

I was using a HTC windows mobile which I had forgotten to switch on after a meeting that day. So, once I reached home, I pressed the power on button and placed it on the middle of the table and was keenly waiting for it to boot. 

The moment a welcome tone was heard, I was stunned by what I saw. The glass on which the phone rested, split into two starting from beneath the speaker. I could clearly see the crack appearing and then extending across along the entire breath of the glass.

Now that was fascinating. I called my room mate and explained what happened. He gave me strange looks as though I was cooking up something. Though not convinced, after seeing me struggle to persuade, he offered to believe me.

I called a few of my friends, whom I thought might give me a valid explanation. Like my room mate, many of them didn’t believe what I said,  some started laughing and some put the entire blame on the glass.

Then I moved on to the Internet and here is one of the videos that clarified things.
Internet sources say : When the frequency of the sound is equal or above the natural resonant frequency of the glass, it can break the glass. It is said that opera singers can break a wine glass by singing!

Indiblogger

38 comments:

  1. Well, glasses shattering due to the high pitch singing of opera singers are depicted in many movies... Looks like it is true!

    On the other hand, do we have to be cautious about mobiles, which can transmit such high impact waves???

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  2. I hated physics from the core of my heart yet Scientifically, there are 2 things which can break the glass!
    (1)the frequency of the sound (what you gave)
    (2)If I sing :P
    were you expecting something really scientific on the latter ? :D

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  3. LOL, I guess that made you feel a bit relief. I didn't know about that, we definitely learn something new everyday.

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  4. thank god for the first para - hahaha

    but yes, i had read that sound can break glass - the frequency & resonance does the magic

    have seen this in many movies too. take the most recent one for example - Tintin - the opera singer's voice breaks the glass

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  5. I've heard about it, but never experienced it, My luck. things like this point out that there are still many things which we are completely unaware of.

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  6. Nice post, and strange to hear.

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  7. It is quite a piece of information!

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  8. i wanted to see the look on ur face when the glass was cracking :D :D :D

    another time when glass can break is when you throw it on the ground.. learnt it when i was 3 ..intelligent no ???

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  9. Why glass, even humans break ice when they resonate at the right frequency!

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  10. Love your posts.. :) Really surprising to know that the Mobile ringtone cracks glass.. :D But for the fear of mom kicking me out, I'll have to keep my mobile off the glass & on the wood. :D

    -
    Kavi
    Edible Entertainment

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  11. :D I want to see his happen :D

    Once, I actually broke a bulb, it was all heated and I sprinkled a drop of water :D on it...BOOM :D My mom doesn't know about it yet....

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  12. Oh I thought it happens in movies when someone sings in high pitch. HTC wonder, I will try doing so with the table I don't like;)

    Thanks for feeding thoughts in my head:)

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  13. :) that is quite an experience...glass breaking all by itself...

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  14. i have always wondered if sound can actually break glass and tried it myself as well when i was a kid well of course it dint work cos i guess the frequency was not right.i too have heard opera singers can break glass by singing,i think it all depend on the pitch of the sound..very intresting post..

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  15. hmmmm i was trying to follow the blog via friend connect somehow its not happening maybe some connection problems..i will try again tommorow..if theres still a prob l let you know

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  16. I had read this line about natural frequency and resonance and we had practicals too on the same principle but never with glass!! :D

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  17. Shouldn't the glass products come with a sticker saying "breaks at XYZ MHz frequncy..."

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  18. Do mobile phones have such high frequency? Matter for thought.

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  19. hmm resonance caused it.......:P :D nice informative one

    plz drop by my blog and read my poetry
    :
    http://campbuzzz.blogspot.com/2011/12/ode-to-exam.html

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  20. Well, it's true. The concept of resonance breaking glass. That's why shakes when enclosed music is booming; the latter is somewhere close to the resonance of glass... But it's an amazing concept indeed.

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  21. i shout...my husband is startled and lets go of the glass of water and the glass breaks....yes sound can break glass :) jokes apart, a very nice post but I hope you are not harmed when you use your phone.

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  22. Sound certainly can break glass... and my wife's yelling can shred my eardrums! :-P

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  23. Being an audio and acoustics junkie, I've broken many a things made of glass. I love seeing the cracks appear before the final shattering.

    But then again, I believe sound can cure cancer. And recently I came across research that suggested it was possible.

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  24. @Nisha~ Thank you. I don't know. But I think that should be a problem for the ear. But nobody keeps the phone close to their ears when it rings right?

    @Gargi Gupta~ LOL.. I was like very eagerly reading to find out the second possibility. Good one! Thank you.

    @Miss Lego~ Yes, that was a big relief after I found out the reason. Thank you.

    @Sujatha Sathya~ hahaha.. Until that day, I was of the opinion that such things happen only in movies. thank you.

    @Ashwini~ True Ashwini, looks like there is lot more in this world we are unaware of. Thank you.

    @Hema~ Thank you Hema. Even I was puzzled in the beginning until I found that video.

    @Neeraj Kumar~ Thank you Neeraj. Glad you found it informative.

    @SuKupedia~ hahaha.. Seriously! you should have been there. I was having this big question mark on my face when it broke. Never in my life was I that puzzled and shocked. Thank you.

    @डॉ॰ मोनिका शर्मा ~ Thank you Monika. Glad you liked it.

    @Rahul Bhatia~ Thank you Rahul. That was a piece of info for me. thank you for sharing.

    @Kavi~ thank you kavi. Glad you like my posts. And with your mobile phones, you better be careful .I had to replace the entire of glass before I vacated the house (though she didn't ask me to).

    @magiceye~ Thank you.

    @TheBluntBlogger~ Thank you. I think it should be reproducible. Just didn't have the time to do it again. And yes, the bulb break, it did happen with me as well. I tried holding a hot bulb with a wet towel while replacing. Nobody knew it at home. ;)

    @Burhan~Thank you.

    @Saru Singhal~ Same here. May be you can try that out. But make sure you are not in a rented apartment and that table does not belong to the house owner ;) .Thank you.

    @Shrijith Nair~ Yes it was shrijith. And puzzling too. thank you.

    @alka narula~ Thank you. Glad you like it. I think you should give it try now. I've come across a video on youtube in which a small boy breaks a wine glass by yelling. It should be possible. And with the friend connect issue, you are already following my blog.

    @M in love~ Thank you for sharing the info. Glad you found it interesting.

    @Shrinidhi Hande~ I think you have a point there shrinidhi. They ideally should carry that label. Thank you.

    @zephyr~ Here, its the frequency of the sound that did the breaking. So it must be high enough. I'm not sure of the radio frequency. Thank you.

    @mbka~ Glad you like it. Have already visited your blog. Thank you for the comment and sharing the link.

    @Vishal Kataria~ Yes. Now after this event all that shaking makes sense to me. Thank you for sharing the info.

    @Raindrop~ LOL. That's in way is a thing to be researched upon. And with the health issue. I think we need to be a little careful. especially when it rings. thank you.

    @Dark Knight~ hahaha. That is nice. I think she should try with the glass next time. Thank you.

    @UjjwalRaaj~ Thank you for sharing the first hand info on sound and the possibility of breaking glass. And as a cancer treatment modality, it is just a possibility that is being worked out and evaluated.

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  25. Yes it does. But most of the time one may not be aware of that which seems magic (until finding out the exact reason if he is a little research oriented like you!)

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  26. Haha, this is a funny story. Hope your landlady wasn't too mad. We've heard of opera singers breaking glass, but to actually witness it must have been something else.

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  27. Well When I sing nothing breaks.. so I guess it is a good sign that I can safely sing anytime any where without causing any damage .I really do not sing much, my kids don't allow me..they say they heard better singers than me....opera singers breaking wine glasses and things in Hindi movies, must be seen to be believed.
    You write very well Dr., I am new to Indiblogger, but would be voting for you there.
    Love Ash.

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  28. A very interesting incident for anyone remotely inquisitive. I'd heard of, read about, and seen videos of sound breaking wine glasses. But I've never seen it in real life. Of course resonance is the cause. But note that the sound needs to be right at the resonant frequency, NOT higher than the resonant frequency for the glass to break. Another very interesting story on the destructive effect of resonance is that of the Tacoma bridge (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mclp9QmCGs)

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  29. I'm quite amazed to know that sound can break a glass. Never knew about the opera singers. Good post ...

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