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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

how does a model differ from a theory
Friday Reply
what is vector quantity
Ridwan Reply
Vector quality have both direction and magnitude, such as Force, displacement, acceleration and etc.
Besmellah
Is the force attractive or repulsive between the hot and neutral lines hung from power poles? Why?
Jack Reply
what's electromagnetic induction
Chinaza Reply
electromagnetic induction is a process in which conductor is put in a particular position and magnetic field keeps varying.
Lukman
wow great
Salaudeen
what is mutual induction?
je
mutual induction can be define as the current flowing in one coil that induces a voltage in an adjacent coil.
Johnson
how to undergo polarization
Ajayi Reply
show that a particle moving under the influence of an attractive force mu/y³ towards the axis x. show that if it be projected from the point (0,k) with the component velocities U and V parallel to the axis of x and y, it will not strike the axis of x unless u>v²k² and distance uk²/√u-vk as origin
Gabriel Reply
show that a particle moving under the influence of an attractive force mu/y^3 towards the axis x. show that if it be projected from the point (0,k) with the component velocities U and V parallel to the axis of x and y, it will not strike the axis of x unless u>v^2k^2 and distance uk^2/√u-k as origin
Gabriel Reply
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Mavis
I can't even understand the question
Ademiye
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Gabriel
mu/y³ u>v²k² uk²/√u-vk please help me out
Gabriel
An engineer builds two simple pendula. Both are suspended from small wires secured to the ceiling of a room. Each pendulum hovers 2 cm above the floor. Pendulum 1 has a bob with a mass of 10kg . Pendulum 2 has a bob with a mass of 100 kg . Describe how the motion of the pendula will differ if the bobs are both displaced by 12º .
Imtiaz Reply
no ideas
Augstine
if u at an angle of 12 degrees their period will be same so as their velocity, that means they both move simultaneously since both both hovers at same length meaning they have the same length
Ademiye
Modern cars are made of materials that make them collapsible upon collision. Explain using physics concept (Force and impulse), how these car designs help with the safety of passengers.
Isaac Reply
calculate the force due to surface tension required to support a column liquid in a capillary tube 5mm. If the capillary tube is dipped into a beaker of water
Mildred Reply
find the time required for a train Half a Kilometre long to cross a bridge almost kilometre long racing at 100km/h
Ademiye
method of polarization
Ajayi
What is atomic number?
Makperr Reply
The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom
Deborah
type of thermodynamics
Yinka Reply
oxygen gas contained in a ccylinder of volume has a temp of 300k and pressure 2.5×10Nm
Taheer Reply
why the satellite does not drop to the earth explain
Emmanuel Reply
what is a matter
Yinka
what is matter
Yinka
what is matter
Yinka
what is a matter
Yinka
I want the nuclear physics conversation
Mohamed
because space is a vacuum and anything outside the earth 🌎 can not come back without an act of force applied to it to leave the vacuum and fall down to the earth with a maximum force length of 30kcm per second
Clara
at t=0second,aparticles moving in x-y plain with aconstant acceleration has avelocity of initial velocity =(3i-2j)m/s and is at the origion.at t=3second the particle's velocity is final velocity=(9i+7j)then how to find the acceleration?
Yoni Reply
how about the formula like v^2=u^2+2as
Bayuo
a=v-u/t
Doreen
what is physics
Yinka
Practice Key Terms 2

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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