Teaching Physics from the Din of Flying Discs #Acoustics23

Teaching Physics from the Din of Flying Discs #Acoustics23

Analyzing the sound of sailing discs can teach valuable signal processing lessons in an interactive way.

SYDNEY, Dec. 4, 2023 – Disc golf is booming, with record numbers of players turning up each year to partake in the disc-throwing sport. It is also whizzing and whistling. In fact, the sound a disc makes while soaring through the air toward its target is full of information about how fast the disc is flying and how quickly it spins.

This insight inspired Kyle S. Dalton of Penn State University to combine his two interests, disc golf and acoustics, into an interactive acoustic signal processing lesson. Dalton will present his work Dec. 4 at 3:40 p.m. Australian Eastern Daylight Time as part of Acoustics 2023, running Dec. 4-8 at the International Convention Centre Sydney.


Action shot of a person throwing a disc. This athletic pastime can help teach valuable lessons about signal processing by measuring the disc’s sound as it flies. Credit: Kyle S. Dalton

“When I took the introductory signal processing course in the acoustics curriculum, some of the example datasets we used came from noise sources such as aircraft, racecars, and fireworks displays,” said Dalton. “These datasets were effective for teaching new signal processing techniques, but those noise sources aren’t accessible to most students if they want to collect more data or experiment on their own.”

Dalton set three microphones in a line, spaced 25 feet apart, and connected them to equipment that converts each microphone’s signal to a data point on the computer. When he threw a disc with a small whistle mounted on top across the line of microphones, he recorded the flying disc’s acoustical signal.

“Listening to the disc allows me to capture multiple properties of the disc’s flight and observe the disc over a larger portion of its flight than is possible with some other measurement techniques,” Dalton said. “Radar guns are often used in disc golf to measure throw velocity, but don’t provide information on how fast the disc is spinning.”

Students can use the resulting dataset to learn basic processing tools and practice data visualization, using the Doppler shift to determine velocity, among other important lessons.

This experiment can be done in an open space, with a basic setup, and a practiced arm.


AIP Media


The Acoustical Society of America is joining the Australian Acoustical Society to co-host Acoustics 2023 Sydney. This collaborative event will incorporate the Western Pacific Acoustics Conference and the Pacific Rim Underwater Acoustics Conference.

Main meeting website: https://acoustics23sydney.org/
Technical program: https://eppro01.ativ.me/src/EventPilot/php/express/web/planner.php?id=ASAFALL23

In the coming weeks, ASA’s Press Room will be updated with newsworthy stories and the press conference schedule at https://acoustics.org/asa-press-room/.

ASA will also share dozens of lay language papers about topics covered at the conference. Lay language papers are summaries (300-500 words) of presentations written by scientists for a general audience. They will be accompanied by photos, audio, and video. Learn more at

ASA will grant free registration to credentialed and professional freelance journalists. If you are a reporter and would like to attend the meeting or virtual press conferences, contact AIP Media Services at media@aip.org. For urgent requests, AIP staff can also help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, sound clips, or background information.

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7,000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (the world’s leading journal on acoustics), JASA Express Letters, Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Acoustics Today magazine, books, and standards on acoustics. The society also holds two major scientific meetings each year. See https://acousticalsociety.org/.

The Australian Acoustical Society (AAS) is the peak technical society for individuals working in acoustics in Australia. The AAS aims to promote and advance the science and practice of acoustics in all its branches to the wider community and provide support to acousticians. Its diverse membership is made up from academia, consultancies, industry, equipment manufacturers and retailers, and all levels of Government. The Society supports research and provides regular forums for those who practice or study acoustics across a wide range of fields The principal activities of the Society are technical meetings held by each State Division, annual conferences which are held by the State Divisions and the ASNZ in rotation, and publication of the journal Acoustics Australia. https://www.acoustics.org.au/