High-speed footage can make a mundane event feel more dramatic, which is why Hollywood uses it to enhance certain scenes. But the technology can also reveal details that happen too quickly for the human eye to perceive. As The Slow Mo Guys reveal, a wine glass shattering when blasted by sound waves is far more complex than just an instantaneous explosion.
If you’ve ever wet a finger and ran it around the rim of a wine glass to make it vibrate and hum, you’re familiar with the effects of resonance. It’s doubtful you can move your finger fast enough around the rim to cause any serious damage, but at the right frequency and amplitude, a sound wave from a nearby speaker (or someone’s mouth) can make a wine glass vibrate with such intensity that it’s pushed to its limits, triggering what turns out to be a complex chain reaction of cracks and splinters.
It’s an experiment you can find performed on YouTube thousands of times, but what the Slow Mo Guys bring to the table is expertise in high-speed photography and some very expensive gear. Using a Phantom TMX 7510 camera (these devices often cost well north of $US100,000 ($134,690)) they were able to capture the moment a violently vibrating wine glass structurally fails at an astonishing 187,500 frames per second.
The resulting footage reveals the destruction at a speed that’s 7,500x slower than what the human eye can perceive, and although the glass completely shatters in less than a second, the tiny sliver of footage captured by the camera would take almost two hours to watch in real-time. At that speed you’d see every little crack and splinter appear and slowly spread across the glass, fracturing and spawning endless offshoots that eventually cause it to completely fall apart. That’s a long time to spend watching a glass shatter, but it’s two hours better spent than watching Space Jam: A New Legacy.