This short paper describes an entertaining class demonstration that blends music and physics using the corrugated whistling toy tube.1 First, students are given an introductory foundation to musical intervals and ear-training tricks so that they can recognize the intervals they hear. Then adjacent harmonics are played by whirling the corrugated toy pipe gradually faster and faster to identify the intervals. With very little practice, one can play the first four consecutive harmonics, which happen to be the beginning of the “2001: A Space Odyssey” theme song. A link to a YouTube video of this memorable class demonstration is provided.2 

This demonstration should be given after the students have learned about harmonics and approximate integer ratios for intervals in a musical scale. For the harmonics, they should know that the frequency of the nth harmonic is given by

f n = n f 1 .

The standard discussion...

AAPT members receive access to The Physics Teacher and the American Journal of Physics as a member benefit. To learn more about this member benefit and becoming an AAPT member, visit the Joining AAPT page.