Hands-on Science Sunday: Echoes from the Moon

by Stephanie Chasteen on May 25, 2009

Wow, super cool.  A group of schoolkids in Italy measured the distance from the earth to the moon using the delayed echo in the audio recording of Neil Armstrong’s famous “One small step…” speech.

From the article in Technology review

They used the open source audio editing program Audacity to measure the echo’s delay which turned out to be 2.620 secs and used this to work out the distance to the moon as 3.93 x 10^8 metres.

That’s not bad given that the actual distance varies between 3.63 and 4.05 x10^8 metres.

Here’s the original Arxiv paper if you want to do it yourself, it has all the details. Tip o’ the lab coat to Swans on Tea.

I’ve also got some fun activities using Audacity and other sound programs to do some sound analysis, such as the difference between men’s and women’s voices, exploring harmonics in music, and the wonderful Escher staircase illusion of music.  Here’s the handout (PDF).  Here’s another version of that handout (PDF) using another free piece of software that is GREAT for elementary and middle school kids in particular, the TEEMSS Soundgrapher.

{ 1 comment }

Captain Skellett May 26, 2009 at 5:21 am

Wow, that IS cool!

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