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  • Define sound and hearing.
  • Describe sound as a longitudinal wave.
Photograph of a glass, half of which is shattered into small pieces by a high-intensity sound wave. The tiny glass bits are shattered all over the place.
This glass has been shattered by a high-intensity sound wave of the same frequency as the resonant frequency of the glass. While the sound is not visible, the effects of the sound prove its existence. (credit: ||read||, Flickr)

Sound can be used as a familiar illustration of waves. Because hearing is one of our most important senses, it is interesting to see how the physical properties of sound correspond to our perceptions of it. Hearing is the perception of sound, just as vision is the perception of visible light. But sound has important applications beyond hearing. Ultrasound, for example, is not heard but can be employed to form medical images and is also used in treatment.

The physical phenomenon of sound    is defined to be a disturbance of matter that is transmitted from its source outward. Sound is a wave. On the atomic scale, it is a disturbance of atoms that is far more ordered than their thermal motions. In many instances, sound is a periodic wave, and the atoms undergo simple harmonic motion. In this text, we shall explore such periodic sound waves.

A vibrating string produces a sound wave as illustrated in [link] , [link] , and [link] . As the string oscillates back and forth, it transfers energy to the air, mostly as thermal energy created by turbulence. But a small part of the string’s energy goes into compressing and expanding the surrounding air, creating slightly higher and lower local pressures. These compressions (high pressure regions) and rarefactions (low pressure regions) move out as longitudinal pressure waves having the same frequency as the string—they are the disturbance that is a sound wave. (Sound waves in air and most fluids are longitudinal, because fluids have almost no shear strength. In solids, sound waves can be both transverse and longitudinal.) [link] shows a graph of gauge pressure versus distance from the vibrating string.

Diagram of a vibrating string held fixed at both ends. The string is shown to move toward the right. The compression and rarefaction of air is shown as bold and dotted line arcs around the string.
A vibrating string moving to the right compresses the air in front of it and expands the air behind it.
Diagram of a vibrating string held fixed at both the ends. The string is shown to move toward the left. The compression and rarefaction of air is shown as bold and dotted arcs around the string.
As the string moves to the left, it creates another compression and rarefaction as the ones on the right move away from the string.
Part a of the diagram shows a vibrating string held fixed at both the ends. The string is shown to vibrate to and fro toward left and right. The compression and rarefaction of air is shown as bold and dotted arcs around the string. Part b shows a graph of pressure versus distance from the source. The pressure is along the y axis and the distance is along the x axis. The graph is a sine wave along the x axis.
After many vibrations, there are a series of compressions and rarefactions moving out from the string as a sound wave. The graph shows gauge pressure versus distance from the source. Pressures vary only slightly from atmospheric for ordinary sounds.

The amplitude of a sound wave decreases with distance from its source, because the energy of the wave is spread over a larger and larger area. But it is also absorbed by objects, such as the eardrum in [link] , and converted to thermal energy by the viscosity of air. In addition, during each compression a little heat transfers to the air and during each rarefaction even less heat transfers from the air, so that the heat transfer reduces the organized disturbance into random thermal motions. (These processes can be viewed as a manifestation of the second law of thermodynamics presented in Introduction to the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Heat Engines and Their Efficiency .) Whether the heat transfer from compression to rarefaction is significant depends on how far apart they are—that is, it depends on wavelength. Wavelength, frequency, amplitude, and speed of propagation are important for sound, as they are for all waves.

Diagram of an ear is shown with sound wave compressions and rare factions entering the ear as semicircular arcs of bold and dotted lines. The cross section of ear drum marked as A is shown to vibrate to and fro with a force F equals P times A.
Sound wave compressions and rarefactions travel up the ear canal and force the eardrum to vibrate. There is a net force on the eardrum, since the sound wave pressures differ from the atmospheric pressure found behind the eardrum. A complicated mechanism converts the vibrations to nerve impulses, which are perceived by the person.

Phet explorations: wave interference

Make waves with a dripping faucet, audio speaker, or laser! Add a second source or a pair of slits to create an interference pattern.

Make waves with a dripping faucet, audio speaker, or laser! Add a second source or a pair of slits to create an interference pattern.
Wave Interference

Section summary

  • Sound is a disturbance of matter that is transmitted from its source outward.
  • Sound is one type of wave.
  • Hearing is the perception of sound.

Questions & Answers

What is the frictional forc e between two bodies
Kennedy Reply
it is the force which always opposes the motion of the body
what is a wave
Williams Reply
wave means. A field of study
what are Atoms
is the movement back and front or up and down
how ?
wave is a disturbance that transfers energy through matter or space with little or no associated mass.
A wave is a motion of particles in disturbed medium that carry energy from one midium to another
an atom is the smallest unit( particle) of an element that bares it's chemical properties
what is electromagnetic induction?
what's boy's law
How is the de Broglie wavelength of electrons related to the quantization of their orbits in atoms and molecules?
Larissa Reply
How do you convert 0.0045kgcm³ to the si unit?
how many state of matter do we really have like I mean... is there any newly discovered state of matter?
Falana Reply
I only know 5: •Solids •Liquids •Gases •Plasma •Bose-Einstein condensate
Alright Thank you
Which one is the Bose-Einstein
can you explain what plasma and the I her one you mentioned
u can say sun or stars are just the state of plasma
but the are more than seven
list it out I wanna know
what the meaning of continuum
Akhigbe Reply
What state of matter is fire
Thapelo Reply
fire is not in any state of matter...fire is rather a form of energy produced from an oxidising reaction.
Isn`t fire the plasma state of matter?
all this while I taught it was plasma
How can you define time?
Thapelo Reply
Time can be defined as a continuous , dynamic , irreversible , unpredictable quantity .
unpredictable? but I can say after one o'clock its going to be two o'clock predictably!
how can we define vector
I would define it as having a magnitude (size)with a direction. An example I can think of is a car traveling at 50m/s (magnitude) going North (direction)
as for me guys u would say time is quantity that measures how long it takes for a specific condition to happen e.g how long it takes for the day to end or how it takes for the travelling car to cover a km.
what is the relativity of physics
Paul Reply
How do you convert 0.0045kgcm³ to the si unit?
What is the formula for motion
Anthony Reply
V=u+at V²=u²-2as
they are eqns of linear motion
v=u+at s=ut+at^\2 v^=u^+2as where ^=2
Explain dopplers effect
Jennifer Reply
Not yet learnt
Explain motion with types
Acceleration is the change in velocity over time. Given this information, is acceleration a vector or a scalar quantity? Explain.
Alabi Reply
Scalar quantity Because acceleration has only magnitude
acleration is vectr quatity it is found in a spefied direction and it is product of displcemnt
its a scalar quantity
velocity is speed and direction. since velocity is a part of acceleration that makes acceleration a vector quantity. an example of this is centripetal acceleration. when you're moving in a circular patter at a constant speed, you are still accelerating because your direction is constantly changing.
acceleration is a vector quantity. As explained by Josh Thompson, even in circular motion, bodies undergoing circular motion only accelerate because on the constantly changing direction of their constant speed. also retardation and acceleration are differentiated by virtue of their direction in
respect to prevailing force
What is the difference between impulse and momentum?
Momentum is the product of the mass of a body and the change in velocity of its motion. ie P=m(v-u)/t (SI unit is kgm/s). it is literally the impact of collision from a moving body. While Impulse is the product of momentum and time. I = Pt (SI unit is kgm) or it is literally the change in momentum
Or I = m(v-u)
the tendency of a body to maintain it's inertia motion is called momentum( I believe you know what inertia means) so for a body to be in momentum it will be really hard to stop such body or object..... this is where impulse comes in.. the force applied to stop the momentum of such body is impulse..
Calculation of kinetic and potential energy
dion Reply
K.e=mv² P.e=mgh
K is actually 1/2 mv^2
what impulse is given to an a-particle of mass 6.7*10^-27 kg if it is ejected from a stationary nucleus at a speed of 3.2*10^-6ms²? what average force is needed if it is ejected in approximately 10^-8 s?
speed=velocity÷time velocity=speed×time=3.2×10^-6×10^-8=32×10^-14m/s impulse [I]=∆momentum[P]=mass×velocity=6.7×10^-27×32×10^-14=214.4×10^-41kg/ms force=impulse÷time=214.4×10^-41÷10^-8=214.4×10^-33N. dats how I solved it.if wrong pls correct me.
what is sound wave
Nworu Reply
sound wave is a mechanical longitudinal wave that transfers energy from one point to another
its a longitudnal wave which is associted wth compresion nad rearfractions
what is power
it's also a capability to do something or act in a particular way.
Newton laws of motion
power also known as the rate of ability to do work
power means capabilty to do work p=w/t its unit is watt or j/s it also represents how much work is done fr evry second
Practice Key Terms 2

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