3B45.61 - Bull Whip and Towel

Code Number:
Demo Title:
Bull Whip and Towel
Shock Waves, Breaking the Sound Barrier
Area of Study:
Wave Fronts
Bull Whip or Wet Towel.

Much practice will be needed with the bull whip to produce the characteristic crack without injury to the demonstrator.

  • Ernie McFarland and Tom Kehn, "The Fantastic Physics Fun Show", TPT, Vol. 34, #8, Nov. 1996, p. 512.
  • Nicolas Lee, Spence Allen, Elizabeth Smith, and Loren M. Winters, "Does the Tip of a Snapped Towel Travel Faster Than Sound", TPT, Vol. 31, #6, Sept. 1993, p. 376.
  • David T. Deihl and F. Roy Carlson Jr., "'N Waves' from Bursting Balloons ", AJP, Vol. 36, #5, May 1968, p. 441.
  • B. Bernstein, D.A. Hall, H.M. Trent, "On the Dynamics of a Bull Whip", The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 30, #12, Dec. 1958.
  • Jearl Walker, "3.59. Popping Bullwhips and Wet Towels", The Flying Circus of Physics Ed. 2, p. 170.

Disclaimer: These demonstrations are provided only for illustrative use by persons affiliated with The University of Iowa and only under the direction of a trained instructor or physicist.  The University of Iowa is not responsible for demonstrations performed by those using their own equipment or who choose to use this reference material for their own purpose.  The demonstrations included here are within the public domain and can be found in materials contained in libraries, bookstores, and through electronic sources.  Performing all or any portion of any of these demonstrations, with or without revisions not depicted here entails inherent risks.  These risks include, without limitation, bodily injury (and possibly death), including risks to health that may be temporary or permanent and that may exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition; and property loss or damage.  Anyone performing any part of these demonstrations, even with revisions, knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks associated with them.