Created By: Stratadrake on January 5, 2013 Last Edited By: Stratadrake on January 19, 2013

Destructive Resonance

Certain frequency + certain object = Stuff Blowing Up

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You'd think we'd have this one, at least the ones involving tuning forks. Do we?

A surefire way to destroy something in fiction is to hit it with a wave of energy (often a blast of sound) that has just the right frequency pattern to match the object's natural resonance; instead of simply absorbing or reflecting the energy, the object vibrates right along with it, and literally shakes itself apart.

In cartoons, the implement is often a tuning fork.

Glass-Shattering Sound is a Sub-Trope.

Not related to Bad Vibrations.


Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • January 5, 2013
    elwoz
    We have Glass Shattering Sound, but that might not be exactly the same thing as what you're thinking of.
  • January 5, 2013
    StarSword
    ^This would be the supertrope since A) frequency resonance is the reason that trick works, and B) this can be applied to other stuff.
  • January 5, 2013
    StarSword
    Useful wikipedia link. Also, I suggest the collapsing Tacoma Narrows Bridge as a page image.

    Real Life:
    • Soldiers on the march are told to break step when crossing bridges, since there's a slight chance that their footsteps could match the bridge's natural resonance and cause it to collapse. This has actually happened.
    • The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was destroyed by high winds causing it to flex in time with its resonance frequency, eventually shattering it.
  • January 5, 2013
    JonnyB
    Part of the plot of K.W. Jeter's Steampunk novel, "Infernal Devices" (not the Cassandra Clare novel) revolves around a mad scientist finding the resonant frequency of the world, and intending to blow it up.
  • January 5, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^^ Actually, the Tacoma Narrows bridge didn't collapse due to a resonant frequency alone, people at the time just couldn't find any other explanation for the disaster. (The true cause is a little more complicated: aeroelastic flutter.)
  • January 5, 2013
    DRCEQ
    ^ ^^^

    Tropes Examined By The Myth Busters. Adam and Jamie tried to match the resonance frequency of a bridge to get it to sway and see if the Tacoma wind/resonance theory held any water. It didn't. They matched the resonance perfectly and did get a small section of the bridge railing to start wobbling about an inch or so, but it was just too sturdy to go beyond that.
  • January 5, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^ I defer to your superior knowledge of the subject; all I had was Bill Nye's version.
  • January 5, 2013
    randomsurfer
    I haven't watched Mythbusters but according to this they retested and found it "plausable."
  • January 5, 2013
    StarSword
    Yeah, the theory on the Broughton collapse had to do with resonance causing a rather important bolt to fail prematurely, not the whole bridge.
  • January 6, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • Phase IV. The ants try to cook the scientists inside their dome by building sun-focusing obelisks. The scientists send out white noise toward the obelisks, determine which frequency doesn't return (and is thus being absorbed), and send out high volumes of that sound to shatter the obelisks.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Shadowrun. In an early supplement it was noted that all types of cyberware in the world use the same type of crystals, and if an ultrasonic beam of the correct frequencies was fired at someone all of the crystals in their cyberware would shatter, thus rendering their cyberware (and them) useless.
  • January 6, 2013
    Astaroth
    • Command And Conquer Tiberian Sun: The GDI have a harmonic resonance tank that uses a weaponised form of this trope, bombarding the enemy with destructive soundwaves.
  • January 6, 2013
    Stratadrake
    @Starsword: I wouldn't say that, I've just read the articles in-depth a few times and that was one of the things that stuck. The mathematical formulae for resonance just don't add up when trying to apply them to the bridge.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    I don't really see why this should be separated from Glass Shattering Sound.
  • January 18, 2013
    DRCEQ
    ^ If anything, Glass Shattering Sound is The Same But More of this proposed trope. In other words, this would be a supertrope to that trope.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    ^ I see your point, but I still don't see a need for two tropes. Rename Glass Shattering Sound and expand, maybe?
  • January 19, 2013
    AgProv
    The episode of Daria where the rock band Mystic Spiral turn it up to eleven, and the feedback destroys everything made of glass in its line of fire. The mixing deck is hastily turned down, but the happy occasion - Brittany Taylor being feted for getting a C- grade average - is marred when she is presented with a crystal-glass trophy to mark her stellar intellectual achievement. At that precise moment, Quinn Morgendorffer leans on the mixing deck and pushes all the levers back up to eleven...
  • January 19, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^That would require a TRS opening, and I think Glass Shattering Sound is common enough for its own trope anyway.
  • January 19, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^^ That goes under Glass Shattering Sound.
  • January 19, 2013
    Chabal2
    • There's a Spiderman comic where the villain stole an experimental suit that vibrates at the desired frequency, producing this effect (it was meant for drilling). Spiderman defeats him by tossing him in a pool, where the vibrations produce ever-bigger waves, shorting out the suit.
    • Dawn Of War: Vespid Stingwings have an ability that works like this to deal huge damage to buildings.
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