|MLA Citation:||Bloomfield, Louis A. "Question 1068"|
How Everything Works 20 Jan 2018. 20 Jan 2018 <http://howeverythingworks.org/print1.php?QNum=1068>.
Now air inside the whistle is never perfectly still—it's always sloshing back and forth at least a tiny bit, much like water sloshes in a basin. As a result, there is always a little motion of air in or out of the slot. When the stream of gas begins to blow across the slot, it amplifies any tiny motions of air inside the whistle so that they become more and more vigorous. Soon the air inside the whistle is vibrating intensely and the resulting pressure fluctuations radiate outward from the whistle as sound.
This same principle is active in many other musical devices, including pipe organs and flutes. In a steam whistle, the stream of gas that drives this vibration is steam rather than air. Water is heated in a boiler until it forms moderately high-pressure steam and then the steam is released through a valve to a large whistle, which sounds loudly.