simple science

Velocity of Sound

Simple Science

Velocity of Sound
The transmission of motion from particle to particle does not occur instantaneously, but requires time. If the distance is short, so that few air particles are involved, the time required for transmission is very brief, and the sound is heard at practically the instant it is made. Ordinarily we are not conscious that it requires time for sound to travel from its source to our ears, because the distance involved is too short. At other times we recognize that there is a delay; for example, thunder reaches our ears after the lightning which caused the thunder has completely disappeared. If the storm is near, the interval of time between the lightning and the thunder is brief, because the sound does not have far to travel; if the storm is distant, the interval is much longer, corresponding to the greater distance through which the sound travels. Sound does not move instantaneously, but requires time for its transmission. The report of a distant cannon is heard after the flash and smoke are seen; the report of a near cannon is heard the instant the flash is seen.

The speed with which sounds travels through the air, or its velocity, was first measured by noting the interval (54.6 seconds) which elapsed between the flash of a cannon and the sound of the report. The distance of the cannon from the observer was measured and found to be 61,045 feet, and by dividing this distance by the number of seconds, we find that the distance traveled by sound in one second is approximately 1118 feet.

High notes and low notes, soft notes and shrill notes, all travel at the same rate. If bass notes traveled faster or slower than soprano notes, or if the delicate tones of the violin traveled faster or slower than the tones of a drum, music would be practically impossible, because at a distance from the source of sound the various tones which should be in unison would be out of time - some arriving late, some early.

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