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The Nature of Sound

Sound is a longitudinal, mechanical wave.

Sound can travel through any medium, but it cannot travel through a vacuum. There is no sound

in outer space.

Sound is a variation in pressure. A region of increased pressure on a sound wave is called a

compression (or condensation). A region of decreased pressure on a sound wave is called a

rarefaction (or dilation).

The sources of sound

vibrating solids

rapid expansion or compression (explosions and implositons)

Smooth (laminar) air flow around blunt obstacles may result in the formation of vorticies

(the plural of vortex) that snap off or shed with a characteristic frequency. This process is

called vortex shedding and is another means by which sound waves are formed. This is

how a whistle or flute produces sound. Aslo the aeolian harp effect of singing power lines

and fluttering venetian blinds.

What are the different characteristics of a wave? What are the things that can be measured about

waves? Amplitude, frequency (and period), wavelength, speed, and maybe phase. Deal with each

one in that order.

amplitude, intensity, loudness, volume

Amplitude goes with intensity, loudness, or volume. That's the basic idea. The details go in a

speed of sound

[ISO 226:2003]

The speed of sound depends upon the type of medium and its state. It is generally affected by

two things: elasticity and inertia.

gases

v =

B ρ

½

=

γP

ρ

½

=

γkT ½

M

B = bulk modulus

liquids

v =

B ρ ½

B = bulk modulus

ρ =

density

ρ = density

γ =

C P /C V (specific heat ratio)

solids

P = absolute pressure

k = boltzmann's constant

T =

absolute temperature

M = molecular mass

v =

Y ρ ½

Y = young's modulus

ρ = density

Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climates (ATOC)

in water, sounds below 1 kHz travel much farther than higher frequencies

"shipping noise is loudest in the 30 to 200 Hz range [lowest piano note to middle of

cello]"

"blue and fin wales are the loudest sound in the 17 to 30 Hz range"

"In pre-industrial times, the low frequency range of 15 to 300 Hz in which most of the

baleen whales sing was the quietest part of the sound spectrum, nestled between the

subsonic ramblings of earthquakes and the higher pitched rattle of wind, waves and rain."

Bob Holmes. "Noises Off." New Scientist. 1 March 1997: 3033.

echoes

scraps

As with any wave the speed of sound depends on the medium in which it is propagating.

Sound generally travels faster in solids and liquids than in gases.

The speed of sound is faster in materials that have some stiffness like steel and slower in

softer materials like rubber.

Factors Which Affect the Speed of Sound in Air.

The speed of sound in air is approximately 330 m/s (about 1,200 kph or 700 mph).

The speed of sound in air is nearly the same for all frequencies and amplitudes.

It increases with temperature.

Determining the Distance to a Lightning Bolt: Sound waves take approximately

5 seconds to travel 1 mile. Using this information, it is possible to measure one's distance

from a lightning bolt. Begin counting immediately after you see the flash. Every five

seconds counted is roughly equivalent to one mile of distance.

Speed of Sound in Various Materials

solids

v (m/s)

liquids

v (m/s)

aluminum

6420

alcohol, ethyl

1207

beryllium

12,890

alcohol, methyl

1103

brass

4700

mercury

1450

brick

3650

water, distilled

1497

copper

4760

water, sea

1531

cork

500

glass, crown

5100

glass, flint

3980

gases (STP)

v (m/s)

glass, pyrex

5640

air, 000

331

gold

3240

air, 020

343

granite

5950

argon

319

iron

5950

carbon dioxide

259

lead

2160

helium

965

lucite

2680

hydrogen (H 2 )

1284

marble

3810

neon

435

rubber, butyl

1830

nitrogen

334

rubber, vulcanized

54

nitrous oxide

263

silver

3650

oxygen (O 2 )

316

steel, mild

5960

water vapor, 134

494

steel, stainless

5790

titanium

6070

biological materials v (m/s)

wood, ash

4670

soft tissues

1540

wood, elm

4120

wood, maple

4110

wood, oak

3850

Sources: Unknown, but probably an old version of the CRC

frequency, pitch, tone

The frequency of a sound wave is called it pitch. High frequency sounds are said to be "high

pitched" or just "high"; low frequency sounds are said to be "low pitched" or just "low".

Frequency of Selected Sounds

f (THz)

device, event, phenomena, process

0.12

SASER (sound laser)

f (MHz) device, event, phenomena, process

120

medical ultrasound

f (kHz)

device, event, phenomena, process

2580

bat sonar clicks

4050

ultrasonic cleaning

32.768

quartz timing crystal

1820

upper limit of human hearing

25

maximum sensitivity of the human hear

f (Hz)

device, event, phenomena, process

3003000 voice frequency (VF), important for understanding speech

  • 2048 C 7 scientific scale, highest note of a soprano singer (approximate)

    • 440 A 4 american standard pitch, tv test pattern tone

    • 435 A 4 international pitch

      • 426.67 A 4 scientific scale

      • 261.63 C 4 american standard pitch

      • 258.65 C 4 international pitch

        • 256 C 4 scientific scale, typical fundamental frequency for female vocal cords

        • 128 C 3 scientific scale, typical fundamental frequency for male vocal cords

          • 64 C 2 scientific scale, lowest note of a bass singer (approximate)

          • 90 ruby-throated hummingbird in flight

          • 60 alternating current hum (US and Japan)

          • 50 alternating current hum (Europe)

820

lower limit of human hearing

1730

blue and fin wales are the loudest marine sounds in this range

15

tornadoes

human hearing and speech

Humans are generally capable of hearing sounds between 20 Hz and 20 kHz (although I can't

hear sounds above 13 kHz). Sounds with frequencies above the range of human hearing are

called ultrasound. Sounds with frequencies below the range of human hearing are called

infrasound.

Typical sounds produced by human speech have freqeuncies on the order of 100 to

1000 Hz.

The peak sensitivity of human hearing is around 4000 Hz.

locating the source of sound

o

Interaural Time Difference (ITD)

o

Interaural Phase Difference (IPD) Phase differences are one way we localize

 

sounds. Only effective for wavelengths greater than 2 head diameters (ear-to-ear

distances).

 

o

Interaural Level Difference (ILD) Sound waves diffract easily at wavelengths

 

larger than the diameter of the human head (around 500 Hz wavelength equals

69 cm). At higher frequencies the head casts a "shadow". Sounds in one ear will

be louder than the other.

The human ear can distinguish some

o

1400 different pitches

three (four?) vocal registers

o

(whistle register?)

o

falsetto

o

modal the usual speaking register

o

vocal fry the lowest of the three vocal registers

More in the next section.

infrasound

avalanches: location, depth, duration

meteors: altitude, direction, type, size, location

ocean waves: storms at sea, magnitude, spectra

severe weather: location, intensity

tornadoes: detection, location, warning, core radius, funnel shape, precursors

turbulence: aircraft avoidance, altitude, strength, extent

earthquakes: precursors, seismic-acoustic coupling

volcanoes: location, intensity

Elephants, whales, hippos, rhinoceros, giraffe, okapi, and alligator are just a few

examples of animals that create infrasound.

Some migratory birds are able to hear the infrasonic sounds produced when ocean waves

break. This allows them to orient themselves with coastlines.

An elephant is capable of hearing sound waves well below our the human hearing

limitation (approximately 30 Hertz). Typically, an elephant's numerous different rumbles

will span between 14 and 35 Hertz. The far reaching use of high pressure infrasound

opens the elephant's spatial experience far beyond our limited capabilities.

Silent Thunder, Katy Payne

ultrasound

 

animal echolocation

 

o

microchiropterans a.k.a. microbats: carnivorous bats (not fruit bats or flying

 

foxes)

 

o

cetaceans: dolphins, porpoises, orcas, whales

o

two bird species: swiftlets and oilbirds

o

some visually impared humans have learned this technique

sonar (an acronym for sound navigation and ranging) including

o

bathymetry

o

echo sounding

o

fish finders

medical ultrasonography (the images generated are called sonograms).

Typical Parameters of Medical Ultrasound

frequency

power

intensity

pulse

 

(MHz)

 

(W)

(W/cm 2 )

duration

imaging, echo

1

20

0.05

1.75

0.2

1 μs

imaging, doppler

1

20

0.15

15.7

0.3

10 μs

physiotherapy

0.5

3

< 3

2.5

continuous

surgery

0.5

10

~ 200

1,500

1

16 s

Source: Physics Today

Frequency Hearing Ranges for Selected Animals (60 dB)

fish actinopterygii

frequency range (Hz)

american shad Alosa sapidissima

200

180,000

goldfish Carassius auratus

5

2,000

atlantic cod Gadus morhua

2

500

tuna Thunnus …

50 1,100

catfish – … …

50 4,000

amphibians amphibia

frequency range (Hz)

tree frog – … …

50 4,000

bullfrog Lithobates catesbeianus

100

2,500

cave salamander Proteus anguinus

10 10,000

reptiles reptilia, sauropsida

frequency range (Hz)

red-eared slider Trachemys scripta elegans

68

840

spectacled caiman Caiman crocodilus

20 6,000

birds aves

frequency range (Hz)

mallard duck Anus platyrhynchus

300

8,000

pigeon Columba livia

?

5,800

chicken Gallus gallus

125

2,000

canary Serinus canaria

250

8,000

cockatiel Nymphicus hollandicus

250

8,000

parakeet Melopsittacus undulatus

200

8,500

penguin Spheniscus demersus

100 15,000

owl – … …

200 12,000

mammals mammalia

frequency range (Hz)

cattle Bos taurus

23 35,000

sheep Ovis aries

100 30,000

pig Sus scrofa domestica

45 45,000

dog Canis lupus familiaris

67

45,000

cat Felis silvestris catus

45

64,000

ferret Mustela putorius furo

16

44,000

raccoon Procyon lotor

100

40,000

humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae

30

28,000

risso's dolphin Grampus griseus

8,000

100,000

beluga whale Delphinapterus leucas

1,000

123,000

atlantic bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus

75

150,000

greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum

2,000 110,000

jamaican fruit bat Artibeus jamaicensis

2,800

131,000

northern quoll Dasyurus hallucatus

500

40,000

opossum – … …

500 64,000

hedgehog – … …

250 45,000

rabbit – … …

360 42,000

horse Equus caballus

55

33,500

japanese macaque Macaca fuscata

28

34,500

old world monkeys – … …

60 40,000

human Homo sapiens

31

17,600

asian elephant Elephas maximus

16

12,000

guinea pig Cavia porcellus

54

50,000

chinchilla Chinchilla lanigera

90

22,800

hamster Mesocricetus auratus

80

45,000

rat Rattus …

500 64,000

mouse Mus …

2,300 85,500

gerbil Meriones unguiculatus

100

60,000

manatee Trichechus manatus latirostris

400 46,000

insects - insecta

noctuid moth – … …

grasshopper – … …

frequency range (Hz)

1,000 240,000

THE NATURE OF SOUND

Sound Waves

Sound is created by a disturbance travelling in an elastic medium. For instance, when an excess

pressure is produced on some region of the air, that region tends to expand towards the

neighbouring zones. This, in turn, compresses those zones, creating a new excess pressure which

will tend to expand next, and, again, a new excess pressure is further created. The pressure

disturbance will thus propagate through the air, and eventually it will reach some receiver (for

instance a microphone or an ear). Excess pressure is called sound pressure.

This kind of movement in which it is not the medium itself but some disturbance what is

travelling, is called a wave. There are many other types of waves, such as radio waves, light, heat

radiation, the ripples on the surface of a lake, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. When the wave takes

place in a liquid or gaseous medium (except surface waves), the wave is called an acoustic

wave. When a wave is audible, it is called a sound wave.

A particularly important point regarding waves is that there are some features which keep almost

unchanged along the wave's path, for instance the wave shape or its total energy (provided the

medium is not dissipative).

Acoustic waves travel usually at a given constant speed, which depends on the medium and

environmental conditions such as temperature. At ambient temperature, the speed of sound in air

is

c = 345 m/s .

This means that it takes one second for sound to go over a 345-meter distance. In water sound

travels more than 4 times faster than in air. When there are temperature gradients, such as it

happens between points hundreds of meters apart, or at different heigts, the speed of sound

changes along its path, making the path a curve rather than a straight line. This is the reason why

our perecption is fooled when we try to find out where an airplane is just by its sound.

Periodic waves

We introduced the concept of wave propagation by means of a single disturbance of a medium.

Actually, most waves are the result of many succesive disturbances of the medium, instead of

only one. When those disturbances are generated at regular intervals and are all the same shape

we are in the presence of a periodic wave, and the number of disturbances per unit time is called

the frequency of the wave. It is expressed in a unit called Hertz (Hz), meaning cycles per

second (a cycle is all that happens in between a disturbance). In the case of sound waves,

frequency is between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz. Acoustic waves of frequency smaller than 20 Hz are

called infrasounds, and those of frequency greater than 20,000 Hz are called ultrasounds.

Neither of them can ordinarily been heard by humans. Several animals (such as the dog, for

instance) can hear very low frequency sounds, such as those created by ground waves during an

earthquake. This is the reason why animals go mad when an earthquake is about to take place:

they can hear the "warning" signal we cannot. Similarly, animals usually can hear ultrasounds.

Bats are a remarkable case: they can hear above 100,000 Hz, which allows them to orientate by

means of sound signals, using a principle known as sonar (similar to the popular radar).

Aperiodic waves

Even if there are many sounds which are nearly periodic, such as those sounds produced by

pitched musical instruments, the vast majority of sounds in Nature are aperiodic, that is,

succesive disturbances are not equally spaced in time, and are not of constant shape either. This

is what in a technical sense is called noise. Aperiodic waves usually cannot convey the sensation

of pitch. Some examples are the consonants of speech, urban noise, the noise of the wind and the

sea, and the sound of many percussive instruments such as drums, charlestons, etc.

Spectrum

Spectrum is a central concept in Acoustics. When we introduced the concept of frequency, we

said that periodic waves have an associated frequency. This is only part of the truth, however,

since usually they have several frequencies at the same time. This is because a noteworthy

mathematical theorem called Fourier's Theorem (after the French mathematician Fourier, who

discovered it), which states that any periodic waveshape may be alternatively created by

superposing different waves of a special shape called sine wave (or sinusoid), each of which has

a frequency that is an integer multiple of the frequency of the original wave. So, when we hear a

100 Hz sound, we are actually hearing sine waves of frequencies 100 Hz, 200 Hz, 300 Hz,

400 Hz, 500 Hz and so on. These sine waves are called the harmonics of the original sound, and

they happen to be clearly audible in certain musical instruments, such as the guitar.

What about an original sound whose shape is already a sinusoid? When one tries to apply

Fourier's theorem to a sinusoid, the result is that has a single harmonic of the same frequency as

the original sinusoid, to be sure. (Note that Fourier's theorem does not say that all waveshapes

must have several harmonics, but rather that any waveshape can be obtained as a superposition

of a number of sinusoids, which might happen to be only one (as a matter of fact this is the case

for a sinusoid!) The fact that each sine wave has a single frequency is the reason why sine waves

are also called pure tones.

The description of the sine waves which compose a given sound is called the spectrum of the

sound. The spectrum of sound is important for several reasons. First, because it allows a

description of sound waves which is closely related to the effect of different devices and physical

modifiers of sound. In other words, if one knows the spectrum of a given sound, one can find out

how it will be affected by, say, the absorptive properties of a thick carpet. The same is not true if

one only knows its wave shape.

Second, spectrum is important also because the aditory perception of sound is predominantly

spectral in nature. In other words, before performing any further processing of the auditory

signal our ears breake the incoming sound into its frequency components, i.e., the sine waves

which, according to Fourier's theorem, form that sound. That is the reason why whith a little

practice one can easily guess the notes which make up a chord.

What about aperiodic sounds' spectra? Fourier's theorem can be extended to the case of aperiodic

sounds. Aperiodic sounds may be as simple as bell-like sounds, or as complex as the so-called

white noise (the noise captured by an FM receiver when there is no signal nor carrier). In the

first case, we can manage to obtain a series of discrete (i.e., separate) frequencies even if their

frequencies will no longer be integer multiples of anything. We might have for instance 100 Hz,

143.3 Hz, 227.1 Hz, 631.02 Hz. In the second case, we have

...

called a continuous spectrum.

all frequencies! This is what is

Sound Intensity

Why are some sounds louder than others? There are many reasons, but the main one is traceable

to the amplitude of sound waves. The amplitude of a sound wave is the maximum excess

pressure of the sound wave in each cycle. In the case of noise, the amplitud may be continuously

changing, and it is customary to compute some sort of average. There are several approaches to

the analysis of loudness, which may be found in the accompanying document on Sound Levels.

The Nature of a Sound Wave

Sound Intensity Why are some sounds louder than others? There are many reasons, but the mainSound Levels . The Nature of a Sound Wave Sound is a Mechanical Wave | Sound is a Longitudinal Wave | Sound is a Pressure Wave Student Extras Teacher's Guide Sound is a Pressure Wave Sound is a mechanical wave that results from the back and forth vibration of the particles of the medium through which the sound wave is moving. If a sound wave is moving from left to right through air, then particles of air will be displaced both rightward and leftward as the energy of the sound wave passes through it. The motion of the particles is parallel (and anti-parallel) to the direction of the energy transport. This is what characterizes sound waves in air as longitudinal waves . A vibrating tuning fork is capable of creating such a longitudinal wave. As the tines of the fork vibrate back and forth, they push on neighboring air particles. The forward motion of a tine pushes air molecules horizontally to the right and the backward retraction of the tine creates a low-pressure area allowing the air particles to move back to the left. Because of the longitudinal motion of the air particles, there are regions in the air where the air particles are compressed together and other regions where the air particles are spread apart. These regions are known as compressions and rarefactions respectively. The compressions are regions of high air pressure while the rarefactions are regions of low air pressure. The diagram below depicts a sound wave created by a tuning fork and propagated through the air in an open tube. The compressions and rarefactions are labeled. " id="pdf-obj-9-28" src="pdf-obj-9-28.jpg">

Sound is a Pressure Wave

Sound is a mechanical wave that results from the back and forth vibration of the particles of the

medium through which the sound wave is moving. If a sound wave is moving from left to right

through air, then particles of air will be displaced both rightward and leftward as the energy of

the sound wave passes through it. The motion of the particles is parallel (and anti-parallel) to the

direction of the energy transport. This is what characterizes sound waves in air as longitudinal

A vibrating tuning fork is capable of creating such a longitudinal wave. As the tines of the fork

vibrate back and forth, they push on neighboring air particles. The forward motion of a tine

pushes air molecules horizontally to the right and the backward retraction of the tine creates a

low-pressure area allowing the air particles to move back to the left.

Sound Intensity Why are some sounds louder than others? There are many reasons, but the mainSound Levels . The Nature of a Sound Wave Sound is a Mechanical Wave | Sound is a Longitudinal Wave | Sound is a Pressure Wave Student Extras Teacher's Guide Sound is a Pressure Wave Sound is a mechanical wave that results from the back and forth vibration of the particles of the medium through which the sound wave is moving. If a sound wave is moving from left to right through air, then particles of air will be displaced both rightward and leftward as the energy of the sound wave passes through it. The motion of the particles is parallel (and anti-parallel) to the direction of the energy transport. This is what characterizes sound waves in air as longitudinal waves . A vibrating tuning fork is capable of creating such a longitudinal wave. As the tines of the fork vibrate back and forth, they push on neighboring air particles. The forward motion of a tine pushes air molecules horizontally to the right and the backward retraction of the tine creates a low-pressure area allowing the air particles to move back to the left. Because of the longitudinal motion of the air particles, there are regions in the air where the air particles are compressed together and other regions where the air particles are spread apart. These regions are known as compressions and rarefactions respectively. The compressions are regions of high air pressure while the rarefactions are regions of low air pressure. The diagram below depicts a sound wave created by a tuning fork and propagated through the air in an open tube. The compressions and rarefactions are labeled. " id="pdf-obj-9-58" src="pdf-obj-9-58.jpg">

Because of the longitudinal motion of the air particles, there are regions in the air where the air

particles are compressed together and other regions where the air particles are spread apart.

These regions are known as compressions and rarefactions respectively. The compressions are

regions of high air pressure while the rarefactions are regions of low air pressure. The diagram

below depicts a sound wave created by a tuning fork and propagated through the air in an open

tube. The compressions and rarefactions are labeled.

The wavelength of a wave is merely the distance that a disturbance travels along the medium

The wavelength of a wave is merely the distance that a disturbance travels along the medium in

one complete wave cycle. Since a wave repeats its pattern once every wave cycle, the

wavelength is sometimes referred to as the length of the repeating patterns - the length of one

complete wave. For a transverse wave, this length is commonly measured from one wave crest to

the next adjacent wave crest or from one wave trough to the next adjacent wave trough. Since a

longitudinal wave does not contain crests and troughs, its wavelength must be measured

differently. A longitudinal wave consists of a repeating pattern of compressions and rarefactions.

Thus, the wavelength is commonly measured as the distance from one compression to the next

adjacent compression or the distance from one rarefaction to the next adjacent rarefaction.

Since a sound wave consists of a repeating pattern of high-pressure and low-pressure regions

moving through a medium, it is sometimes referred to as a pressure wave. If a detector, whether

it is the human ear or a man-made instrument, were used to detect a sound wave, it would detect

fluctuations in pressure as the sound wave impinges upon the detecting device. At one instant in

time, the detector would detect a high pressure; this would correspond to the arrival of a

compression at the detector site. At the next instant in time, the detector might detect normal

pressure. And then finally a low pressure would be detected, corresponding to the arrival of a

rarefaction at the detector site. The fluctuations in pressure as detected by the detector occur at

periodic and regular time intervals. In fact, a plot of pressure versus time would appear as a sine

curve. The peak points of the sine curve correspond to compressions; the low points correspond

to rarefactions; and the "zero points" correspond to the pressure that the air would have if there

were no disturbance moving through it. The diagram below depicts the correspondence between

the longitudinal nature of a sound wave in air and the pressure-time fluctuations that it creates at

a fixed detector location.

The wavelength of a wave is merely the distance that a disturbance travels along the medium

The above diagram can be somewhat misleading if you are not careful. The representation of

sound by a sine wave is merely an attempt to illustrate the sinusoidal nature of the pressure-time

fluctuations. Do not conclude that sound is a transverse wave that has crests and troughs. Sound

waves traveling through air are indeed longitudinal waves with compressions and rarefactions.

As sound passes through air (or any fluid medium), the particles of air do not vibrate in a

transverse manner. Do not be misled - sound waves traveling through air are longitudinal waves.

The above diagram can be somewhat misleading if you are not careful. The representation of soundJump To Lesson 2: Sound Properties and Their Perception What is rarefaction and compression? Physics Questions " id="pdf-obj-11-14" src="pdf-obj-11-14.jpg">

Check Your Understanding

1. A sound wave is a pressure wave; regions of high (compressions) and low pressure

(rarefactions) are established as the result of the vibrations of the sound source. These

compressions and rarefactions result because sound

  • a. is more dense than air and thus has more inertia, causing the bunching up of sound.

  • b. waves have a speed that is dependent only upon the properties of the medium.

  • c. is like all waves; it is able to bend into the regions of space behind obstacles.

  • d. is able to reflect off fixed ends and interfere with incident waves

  • e. vibrates longitudinally; the longitudinal movement of air produces pressure fluctuations.

What is rarefaction and compression?

Physics Questions

Answers.com > Wiki Answers > Categories > Science > Physics Best Answer Compression is a Pushing Force whereas Rarefaction is a Pulling Force[Compression is the point when the most force is being applied to a molecule&Rarefaction is the point when the least force is applied].

Compression happens when particles are forced/pressed together.Rarefaction is just the opposite,it occurs when particles are given extra space&allowed to expand.

Compression&Rarefaction are Effects the wave causes.

If you look at any normal visual representation of a Sound Wave,the humps above the middle line are called Compressions,the humps below are called Rarefactions.