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Open Access Case study: Purdue University's "Clapping Circle": An acoustical investigation

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The perplexing acoustical properties of a landscape architecture feature of Academy Park on the Purdue University campus have long been the subject of speculation. The feature, known informally as the "Clapping Circle", consists of sixty-six concentric rings of stone tiles. When someone claps while at the middle of the circle, they hear a high-pitched squeak immediately afterwards. Experiments were conducted by the Purdue student chapter of the Acoustical Society of America to characterize this effect. The response to a clap played from an omnidirectional speaker placed at the center of the circle was recorded using a microphone positioned above the loudspeaker. Spectrograms of the recorded responses revealed the squeak to consist of a descending tone and its harmonics. This tone disappeared from the spectrogram when the tiles were covered with absorbing blankets. A model based on scattering from the bevels between the tile rings reproduced the descending frequency of the squeak. Similarly to famous stepped structures with notable acoustics, the tiles were found to scatter sound best when the wavelength was not larger than the tiles' spatial period. Thus, it was concluded that the squeak is an example of an acoustical diffraction grating which creates a repetition pitch caused by scattering from the tile formation.

Keywords: 23; 51.1

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Engineering Education, Purdue University 2: School of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Purdue University 3: School of Engineering Technology, Purdue University 4: School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University 5: Seagate Technology, US

Publication date: July 1, 2021

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