Clapping - Very Loud

Around 1960, when I was a young teenager, I discovered how to clap my hands in a way which is around twenty times louder than anyone else claps! Even in large theaters, other people in the audience would look at me as unusual!

In small gatherings, I was often seen as an annoyance, a bratty kid who was disrupting everything by clapping louder than everyone else together!

It really is very simple!

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Everyone else claps by simply slapping their hands together, generally expecting to make minimal noise by impact, but to thereby show appreciation for some performance which had just concluded on a stage. Fine.

They hold their hands LOOSE and FLAT and PARALLEL to each other. That does NOT trap much air between the hands! The palms of the hands do not fit together very well! They make the sound of SLAPPING. I do something that is VERY different! I hold my hands so RIGID and they are CUPPED. My hands are also CROSSED to each other (where the fingers do not get in the way of SEALING the space between the palms). Actually, I try NOT to ever 'slap' my hands together!

As an inquisitive young kid, who was already very interested in aspects of Physics, and fascinated by the sonic booms which regularly occurred when US Military jets then flew overhead the Chicago suburbs, I did some thinking and experimenting.

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I slightly CUPPED my hands, and tried to make them as RIGID as I could. Only about a half-inch depression inside each palm, no more.

Between the two CUPPED areas, the CROSSED hands can briefly TRAP air between them. Only a few seconds of practicing quickly makes VERY loud clapping sounds! WITHOUT SLAPPING AT ALL!

When I slapped those two palms together, only the EDGES actually ever contacted each other and the trapped air in between (which is VERY important in that it is TRAPPED), got COMPRESSED, as my hands naturally flattened out due to the impact.

What this did, in a scientific way, was to create a SHOCK WAVE of significantly higher air pressure. Instead of the usual 15 PSI air pressure in any room, I believe I often could create a compression of around three to one, meaning that I created a sonic shock wave of around 45 PSI. As my hands spread apart, that increase air in the shock wave then spread out across the room (propagated) as my hands came apart. This shock wave in the air was exactly the same sort of shock wave that occurs when someone hits a big bass drum, or hits a musical cymbal, and the effect was moderately similar.

A little practice, and I learned to position my hands crossways so that the air was really trapped between my hands, for greatest effect.

YOU can try this and within two minutes, you will be clapping outrageously loud!

I later figured out another use of this talent! Say that a standard house fly was sitting on the table next to you. If you make any sudden moves, it flies away, but if you SLOOOOOWLY lower your hand to be a foot above it, it does not seem to notice. Some people (all boys or men) then slap the table to squish the house fly.

That is certainly a way to kill house flies, but it can be very messy when the fly or mosquito comes apart from the impact, and your hand can be a bloody mess of fly parts! Many of the boys and men who do this seem to consider that a badge of honor, as though they just killed a dragon!

Around 1960. I figured out what I consider to be a FAR better way to do that! I discovered that if I used the CUPPED configuration of my hand, (described above) and again as rigid as I could manage, the effect is very different!

My hand actually NEVER actually hit the fly, I never even touched it at all! So the fly does not come apart and there is no mess. But what DOES happen is interesting! You cause a very high pressure air shock wave to be around the fly, and what happens is that the fly falls over, seriously stunned and nearly dead!

A paper towel can be used to pick up the stunned fly and toss it in the toilet or down the drain, or fully squish it if that is your goal, and put it in the garbage.

Not exactly a world-changing idea, but it certainly works!

Flies and mosquitos both get stunned by this, but I personally tend to just squish mosquitoes! I guess it does not seem worth the extra effort and trouble, and I have had a life long grudge against mosquitoes anyway!

There are other small critters who can be stunned in this way. The sonic shock wave does not actually kill anything, the excessive air pressure of the shock wave just stuns the critter. So almost any bug, even a cockroach or ladybug can be stunned in this way. The critter is only affected for a couple seconds, but when I was younger, I used to sometimes entertain myself by causing dizzy bugs!


I discovered this around 1960. This presentation was first placed on the Internet in April 2012.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago