The Impact of Distance on the Doppler Effect

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Author: Muriel Gerhard



High School

Difficulty of Project



$2 or less

Safety Issues


Material Availability

Readily available from home.

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project

2 weeks. This includes the basic research, recruitment of subjects, experimentation, collection, recording and analysis of data, summary of results and completion of bibliography.


To determine the impact of distance has on the Doppler Effect.

Materials and Equipment Required

  • battery operated electric shaver
  • 10 blindfolds
  • student response sheets
  • chart for summary of data


Background Information

On the information level, this experiment serves to acquaint students with current information on the Doppler Effect or as it is sometimes called the Doppler Shift. We tend to hear different sounds when the source of the sound is approaching, is in motion or receding.  This shift is prevalent in all wave motion, both mechanical and electromagnetic.  The practical applications of this effect or shift include radar detectors measuring the speed of automobiles, astronomers measuring the distance and speed of light emerging from distant galaxies to physicians monitoring the health of a fetus by means of the Doppler shift in ultrasound. The research for this project alone acquaints the student with the multitude of practical and significant applications of a single discovery in physics.

This science fair experiment also serves to acquaint students with the essential processes of sciencing such as the importance of the use of a control, of identifying dependent and independent variables, of data collection, of pictorial and or graphic presentation of data and of being able to make better judgments as to the validity and reliability of their findings. They take on the role of scientists and in the process they learn to act as one.

Research Terms

  • Doppler Effect
  • Doppler Shift
  • sound waves
  • vibrations
  • frequency, high, low
  • amplitude
  • radar
  • Doppler Radar
  • pitch
  • red shift

Research Questions

  • What is the Doppler Effect or Shift?
  • How was it discovered?
  • How could you demonstrate the effect in terms of sound?
  • What is the so-called “rule of thumb” about the Doppler Effect?
  • What are some of the significant and practical applications of the Doppler Effect? 

Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

  • What is a control?  A control is the variable that is not changed in the experiment.
  • What purpose does a control serve? It is used to make comparisons as to what changed or possibly caused the change.
  • What are variables?  Variables are factors that can be changed in an experiment.
  • What is an independent variable? The independent variable is the one that is changed in the experiment.
  • What is a dependent variable? The dependent variable is the one that changes as a result of the change in the independent variable.

Student Response Sheet and Chart of Data

In this experiment, use student response sheets and charts to display the obtained data such as the following sample:

Description of Student Response Sheet

What was heard!  How did the sounds differ or were they the same? Be as specific as you can. If you fail to hear the sound, just record this on your sheet.

Student # ___

Sound #1

Sound #2





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