Annual Tyndall Lecture Hits the High Notes As Students Discover the Wonderful World of Sound Waves


tyndall lecture - the physics of wavesEver wondered how Shazam works? Or Auto tunes? Or perhaps wondered why we believe the universe started with a Big Bang?

These questions, and many more, were answered and the concepts behind them explained at today’s annual Tyndall lecture at Institute of Technology Carlow when guest lecturer Dr. Tom McCormack introduced attendees to the wonderful world of sound waves.


Music and physics have always been close cousins, from Kepler’s description of the planets using musical harmonies to modern string theory, where all the world is a vibration. Dr. McCormack explained how simple concepts in waves, in particular musical sound waves, help us understand the everyday world around us. Students from schools in Carlow and Kilkenny attended the lecture that included plenty of interactive demonstrations and audience participation. 

The Tyndall lecture series for schools are held around the country every January and February to show school children how their class work relates to modern areas of physics. The series is sponsored by the Institute of Physics Ireland (IOPI) and always prove to be an interactive adventure with opportunities for audience participation.

Assistant Registrar of Institute of Technology Carlow and Co-Chair of IOPI, Dr. Yvonne Kavanagh, welcomed a full lecture theatre of guests. Dr. David Dowling, Head of Faculty of Science at Institute of Technology Carlow followed the welcome by introducing Dr. McCormack.

Dr. McCormack has a PhD in atomic physics and is a lecturer in physics in University College Dublin (UCD). His research interests range from the interaction of lasers with atoms to novel semiconductor light sources, and to innovative teaching and learning methods. Dr. McCormack is very interested in the promotion of science and his outreach activities have brought him as far as the Arctic where he spent two weeks on a sailing ship performing a series of experiments to help illuminate his lectures.

Speaking after the Tyndall lecture, Dr. Kavanagh said, “We live in very exciting times where physicists are pushing boundaries daily to get a deeper understanding of the world we live in.  This excellent lecture shows how physics is everywhere and physicists impact and improve all sectors. So when you put on headphones to listen to music, remember a physicist made this possible”.