The Physics Of Sound
Sound waves are longitudinal waves that travel through a medium like air or water.When we think about sound, we often think about how loud it is (amplitude, or intensity) and its pitch (frequency).
The Physics of Sound
When an airplane flies at or above the speed of sound, air molecules cannot move out of the way of the airplane fast enough, so the pressure waves combine to generate a large shockwave, which people on the ground hear as a sonic boom.
In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid.In human physiology and psychology, sound is the reception of such waves and their perception by the brain. Only acoustic waves that have frequencies lying between about 20 Hz and 20 kHz, the audio frequency range, elicit an auditory percept in humans. In air at atmospheric pressure, these represent sound waves with wavelengths of 17 meters (56 ft) to 1.7 centimeters (0.67 in). Sound waves above 20 kHz are known as ultrasound and are not audible to humans. Sound waves below 20 Hz are known as infrasound. Different animal species have varying hearing ranges.
Acoustics is the interdisciplinary science that deals with the study of mechanical waves in gasses, liquids, and solids including vibration, sound, ultrasound, and infrasound. A scientist who works in the field of acoustics is an acoustician, while someone working in the field of acoustical engineering may be called an acoustical engineer. An audio engineer, on the other hand, is concerned with the recording, manipulation, mixing, and reproduction of sound.
Applications of acoustics are found in almost all aspects of modern society, subdisciplines include aeroacoustics, audio signal processing, architectural acoustics, bioacoustics, electro-acoustics, environmental noise, musical acoustics, noise control, psychoacoustics, speech, ultrasound, underwater acoustics, and vibration.
Sound is defined as "(a) Oscillation in pressure, stress, particle displacement, particle velocity, etc., propagated in a medium with internal forces (e.g., elastic or viscous), or the superposition of such propagated oscillation. (b) Auditory sensation evoked by the oscillation described in (a)." Sound can be viewed as a wave motion in air or other elastic media. In this case, sound is a stimulus. Sound can also be viewed as an excitation of the hearing mechanism that results in the perception of sound. In this case, sound is a sensation.
Sound can propagate through a medium such as air, water and solids as longitudinal waves and also as a transverse wave in solids. The sound waves are generated by a sound source, such as the vibrating diaphragm of a stereo speaker. The sound source creates vibrations in the surrounding medium. As the source continues to vibrate the medium, the vibrations propagate away from the source at the speed of sound, thus forming the sound wave. At a fixed distance from the source, the pressure, velocity, and displacement of the medium vary in time. At an instant in time, the pressure, velocity, and displacement vary in space. Note that the particles of the medium do not travel with the sound wave. This is intuitively obvious for a solid, and the same is true for liquids and gases (that is, the vibrations of particles in the gas or liquid transport the vibrations, while the average position of the particles over time does not change). During propagation, waves can be reflected, refracted, or attenuated by the medium.
The mechanical vibrations that can be interpreted as sound can travel through all forms of matter: gases, liquids, solids, and plasmas. The matter that supports the sound is called the medium. Sound cannot travel through a vacuum.
Sound is transmitted through gases, plasma, and liquids as longitudinal waves, also called compression waves. It requires a medium to propagate. Through solids, however, it can be transmitted as both longitudinal waves and transverse waves. Longitudinal sound waves are waves of alternating pressure deviations from the equilibrium pressure, causing local regions of compression and rarefaction, while transverse waves (in solids) are waves of alternating shear stress at right angle to the direction of propagation.
The energy carried by an oscillating sound wave converts back and forth between the potential energy of the extra compression (in case of longitudinal waves) or lateral displacement strain (in case of transverse waves) of the matter, and the kinetic energy of the displacement velocity of particles of the medium.
Although there are many complexities relating to the transmission of sounds, at the point of reception (i.e. the ears), sound is readily dividable into two simple elements: pressure and time. These fundamental elements form the basis of all sound waves. They can be used to describe, in absolute terms, every sound we hear.
In order to understand the sound more fully, a complex wave such as the one shown in a blue background on the right of this text, is usually separated into its component parts, which are a combination of various sound wave frequencies (and noise).
Sound that is perceptible by humans has frequencies from about 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. In air at standard temperature and pressure, the corresponding wavelengths of sound waves range from 17 m (56 ft) to 17 mm (0.67 in). Sometimes speed and direction are combined as a velocity vector; wave number and direction are combined as a wave vector.
The speed of sound depends on the medium the waves pass through, and is a fundamental property of the material. The first significant effort towards measurement of the speed of sound was made by Isaac Newton. He believed the speed of sound in a particular substance was equal to the square root of the pressure acting on it divided by its density:
In fresh water the speed of sound is approximately 1,482 m/s (5,335 km/h; 3,315 mph). In steel, the speed of sound is about 5,960 m/s (21,460 km/h; 13,330 mph). Sound moves the fastest in solid atomic hydrogen at about 36,000 m/s (129,600 km/h; 80,530 mph).
Since the human ear does not have a flat spectral response, sound pressures are often frequency weighted so that the measured level matches perceived levels more closely. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has defined several weighting schemes. A-weighting attempts to match the response of the human ear to noise and A-weighted sound pressure levels are labeled dBA. C-weighting is used to measure peak levels.
A distinct use of the term sound from its use in physics is that in physiology and psychology, where the term refers to the subject of perception by the brain. The field of psychoacoustics is dedicated to such studies. Webster's 1936 dictionary defined sound as: "1. The sensation of hearing, that which is heard; specif.: a. Psychophysics. Sensation due to stimulation of the auditory nerves and auditory centers of the brain, usually by vibrations transmitted in a material medium, commonly air, affecting the organ of hearing. b. Physics. Vibrational energy which occasions such a sensation. Sound is propagated by progressive longitudinal vibratory disturbances (sound waves)." This means that the correct response to the question: "if a tree falls in the forest with no one to hear it fall, does it make a sound?" is "yes", and "no", dependent on whether being answered using the physical, or the psychophysical definition, respectively.
As a signal perceived by one of the major senses, sound is used by many species for detecting danger, navigation, predation, and communication. Earth's atmosphere, water, and virtually any physical phenomenon, such as fire, rain, wind, surf, or earthquake, produces (and is characterized by) its unique sounds. Many species, such as frogs, birds, marine and terrestrial mammals, have also developed special organs to produce sound. In some species, these produce song and speech. Furthermore, humans have developed culture and technology (such as music, telephone and radio) that allows them to generate, record, transmit, and broadcast sound.
Noise is a term often used to refer to an unwanted sound. In science and engineering, noise is an undesirable component that obscures a wanted signal. However, in sound perception it can often be used to identify the source of a sound and is an important component of timbre perception (see above).
Soundscape is the component of the acoustic environment that can be perceived by humans. The acoustic environment is the combination of all sounds (whether audible to humans or not) within a given area as modified by the environment and understood by people, in context of the surrounding environment.
There are, historically, six experimentally separable ways in which sound waves are analysed. They are: pitch, duration, loudness, timbre, sonic texture and spatial location. Some of these terms have a standardised definition (for instance in the ANSI Acoustical Terminology ANSI/ASA S1.1-2013). More recent approaches have also considered temporal envelope and temporal fine structure as perceptually relevant analyses.
Pitch is perceived as how "low" or "high" a sound is and represents the cyclic, repetitive nature of the vibrations that make up sound. For simple sounds, pitch relates to the frequency of the slowest vibration in the sound (called the fundamental harmonic). In the case of complex sounds, pitch perception can vary. Sometimes individuals identify different pitches for the same sound, based on their personal experience of particular sound patterns. Selection of a particular pitch is determined by pre-conscious examination of vibrations, including their frequencies and the balance between them. Specific attention is given to recognising potential harmonics. Every sound is placed on a pitch continuum from low to high. For example: white noise (random noise spread evenly across all frequencies) sounds higher in pitch than pink noise (random noise spread evenly across octaves) as white noise has more high frequency content. Figure 1 shows an example of pitch recognition. During the listening process, each sound is analysed for a repeating pattern (See Figure 1: orange arrows) and the results forwarded to the auditory cortex as a single pitch of a certain height (octave) and chroma (note name). 041b061a72