Rubens’ Flame Tube

In 1905, German physicist Heinrich Ruben built the flame tube to show the shape of a wave. Sound waves travel by changing the air pressure and as the sound travels in the tube, the changing air pressure is reflected in the flames in the top of the tube. Some frequencies produce a standing wave which means as the wave travels down and back, it has the same shape. The Rubens’ tube shows this when certain notes/frequencies are played. For example, E has a higher pitch than A and so also has a higher frequency. That means the wavelength is shorter as displayed in the Rubens’ tube than the A.

So, my #lifewithascienceteacher challenge was to build a Rubens’ tube for my wife to use as a demonstration for her class. After a quick trip to the local big box hardware store to get parts, here is what we came up with.

Life with a Science Teacher is a personal project highlighting my wife and some of the fun, gross, and unexpected science experiments that she does as a teacher. Follow along at

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