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The Mathematics Behind a Pan’s Flute

Former undergraduate mathematics student Sajan Ramanathan, now at Yale University, along with professor Bogdan Nita, recently published a discussion in the journal Fluids.

Posted in: Publications, Students and Alumni

Modeling a Pan's Flute
Modeling a Pan's Flute

Their paper, Fluids in Music: The Mathematics of Pan’s Flutes, was published in a special issue of the journal Fluids focused on the teaching and learning of fluid mechanics. A Pan’s flute is a wind instrument built from wooden pipes of different lengths arranged in decreasing order. The pipes are stopped at one end and produce a sound when blowing air into the open end. Ramanathan and Nita analyzed how the flute sound is created, the relationship between the notes that the pipes produce, their frequencies and the length of the pipes. They also built on their knowledge of partial differential equations and musical scales to find an equation which models the curve that appears at the bottom of any Pan’s flute due to the different pipe lengths.

Congratulations Sajan and Dr. Nita!