Acoustics is the interdisciplinary science that deals with the study of all mechanical waves in gases, liquids, and solids including vibration, sound, ultrasound and infrasound. Applications of acoustics are for instance the audio and noise control industries.

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How can a black hole produce sound?

I was reading this article from NASA -- it's NASA -- and literally found myself perplexed. The article describes the discovery that black holes emit a "note" that has physical ramifications on the ...
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Is it fair to judge this speedskating race by only 3 thousands of a second?

I'm reading this article: Zbigniew Brodka of Poland won the Olympic men's 1,500 meters speed skating title by just 0.003 seconds at the Adler Arena on Saturday. Brodka clocked one minute, ...
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Without seeing the lightning, can you tell how far away it struck by how the thunder sounds?

Is there any way to tell how far away a lightning strike is by how its thunder sounds? I thought one way might be by using the fact that higher frequencies travel faster than lower frequencies. Would ...
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Why do power lines buzz?

When near high tension power lines, particularly after a good rain, the lines themselves emit a buzzing noise. A similar noise can be heard coming out of the electric meters attached to my apartment. ...
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Why can't you hear music well over a telephone line?

Why can't you hear music well well over a telephone line? I was asked this question in an interview for a university study placement and I unfortunately had no idea. I was given the hint that the ...
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Speed of sound at temperatures below 0 °C

How can the speed of sound be calculated for temperatures below 0 °C (down to -40 °C)? Does the calculation $v=331\ \frac{m}{s} + 0.6 \frac{m}{s°C} \times T$ still hold (where T's unit is ...
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Why is the bell, well, bell shaped?

What is the significance about the bell shape, when its hit at the rim it rings/produces sound better than other shaped objects? If so could anyone explain a little bit on it. EDIT: From the ...
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How much information about the scale of a waterfall can be obtained from its sound?

Is it possible to constrain the height, volume flow, or distance of a waterfall from the quantitative analysis of a high-quality recording of its sound? As an aside, the simulated sounds of fluid ...
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Fourier transformation in nature/natural physics?

I just came from a class on Fourier Transformations as applied to signal processing and sound. It all seems pretty abstract to me, so I was wondering if there were any physical systems that would ...
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Why does the sound pitch increase on every consecutive tick at the bottom of a filled cup of coffee?

Since I don't know the proper physical terms for this, I describe it in everyday English. The following has kept me wondering for quite some time and so far I haven't found a reasonable explanation. ...
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Why does the fundamental mode of a recorder disappear when you blow harder?

I have a simple recorder, like this: When I cover all the holes and blow gently, it blows at about 550 Hz, but when I blow more forcefully, it jumps an octave and blows 1100 Hz. What's the ...
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Why does the note played by a flute not change in this case when the air column is interrupted?

I play the flute as a hobby, and I've noticed that when playing middle D or E flat, one can interrupt the air column by releasing a certain key (which is near the middle of the air column), and yet ...
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Why does sound travel faster in iron than mercury even though mercury has a higher density?

The speed of sound depends on the density of the medium in which it is travelling and increases when the density increases. For example, in solids sound travels faster than in liquid and even faster ...
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What determines the pitch of an explosion?

It's bonfire weekend here in the UK, and everybody is intent on shooting fireworks. I was wondering, what determines the pitch of the sound produced by an explosion? The sound has clearly a ...
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How small can you be and still hear?

According to my understanding, at the smallest level sound is just a collection of particles colliding on a wave. So, assuming we can arbitrarily reduce the size of any human being, how small can we ...
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Octave equivalence: biological or more?

I'm a graduate student in mathematics doing a bit of research in signal processing and Fourier analysis and I've come across a question that could probably be better answered by a physicist: Is the ...
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Did Felix Baumgartner produce a sonic boom during his jump?

I really got to thinking about this. The speed of sound is measured at 761.2 MPH at sea level. But how does this number change as air density decreases? The lack of air density is what allowed his ...
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How does paper make sound when it is torn?

We know that from our experience when we tear up a piece of paper, we can hear a characteristic sound. What is the underlying mechanism behind it? What do the dominant frequencies (edit: I don't mean ...
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How can you focus sound?

I saw this TED talk and I am curious as to how the sound is focused on the general level. Can anyone explain this or does anyone have any good articles?
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Maximum delay for effective active noise cancelling?

Active noise cancelling reduces unwanted sound by sending the inverted phase of the original phase: (Source: Wikipedia) Theoretically, this seems logical to me. However, in real life, the ...
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Phonons in non-crystalline media

Do sound waves in a gas consist of phonons? What about a glass? Or other non-crystalline materials such as quasicrystals? How does the lack of translational symmetry affect the quantization of the ...
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Why does my natural whistle have a maximum volume

When I whistle, I find that I can vary the volume by pushing more or less air through my mouth at once. However, when I increase volume past a point, I start to hear a blend of rushing air and a ...
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Is it possible to travel at precisely the speed of sound?

I've been talking to a friend, and he said that it's impossible to travel at exactly the same speed as the speed of sound is. He argued that it's only possible to break through the sound barrier using ...
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How does a steady wind flow generate sound?

When a wind blow through sharp edge, say, edge of a paper, you can see the vibration of the paper and hear the sound. For this type of oscillation, it should be a damped oscillation with external ...
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Slinky reverb: the origin of the iconic Star Wars blaster sound

This is a fun problem that I came across recently, which I'm posting here for your delectation. We all love a good slinky: they can be used for all sorts of fun demos in physics. One example is the ...
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Why can I tell a flute from a trumpet?

The usual story I've heard describing the difference between a 440 Hz note played by a flute and a trumpet is that the overtones are different. That is, if you play a note at 440 Hz, there will also ...
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What are the limitations of performing music in space?

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's song Space Oddity is making news around the world today. It makes me wonder: What are the limitations of performing music in space? Clearly, there is no point to ...
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Whistle Physics

I'm looking for a simple explanation of how a whistle operates. I know that forcing air over a sharp lip can set up a wave in a resonating cavity, but how? "Most whistles operate due to a feedback ...
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Does sound propagate further in freezing weather?

A few days ago I went for a walk in the evening. We're having winter with a little snow and freezing temperatures. We're in a quiet, shallow valley with a train station about 1km from us. I heard a ...
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Hearing a sound backwards because of Doppler effect

Consider a supersonic plane (mach 2) aproaching a stationary sound source (e.g a fog horn on a boat). If I understand it correctly, the passengers in the plane can hear the sound twice. First at a 3 ...
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Superposition of electromagnetic waves

The superposition of two waves is given by $$\sin(\omega_1 t)+\sin(\omega_2 t)=2\cos\left(\frac{\omega_1-\omega_2}{2}t\right)\sin\left(\frac{\omega_1+\omega_2}{2}t\right).$$ For sound waves, this ...
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Why do you only hear high frequencies when a microphone is near its speaker?

The phenomenon I'm talking about is positive feedback, as known from control engineering: when the microphone is too close to its speaker, it can "hear itself", so the signal will be infinitely ...
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Can light waves cause beats?

My question is pretty brief. When two sound waves of nearly same frequencies interfere, we get beats. But, I have not observed something like that happening in the case of light. In fact, most of the ...
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What is sound and how is it produced?

I've been using the term "sound" all my life, but I really have no clue as to what sound exactly is or how it is created. What is sound? How is it produced? Can it be measured?
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Is there an upper frequency limit to ultrasound?

Wikipedia has this diagram of the acoustic frequency spectrum: Is there an upper limit to the frequencies you can transmit through the air? Are they absorbed more and more at higher frequencies, ...
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A Musical Pathway

Using a small number of sound emitters, could you create a room where certain nodes emitted particular tones, but no meaningful sound was heard anywhere else. So, for example, by walking down a ...
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Are pure mechanical evanescent waves possible?

Consider a lattice of massive points connected by harmonic springs, with zero or periodic boundary conditions. If we make a repeating pattern of $N$ varying masses, the system will have $N$ bands of ...
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Why and how is sound produced when two objects hit each other?

When two objects collide and undergo a partially inelastic collision (so every one we experience in every-day life), they rebound to a certain degree, but kinetic energy is not conserved. Thus, the ...
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Theory behind patterns formed on Chladni plates?

In this video of vibrating Chladni plates we can see small sand particles align themselves into different interesting patterns (also shown in the image below) which correspond to some particular ...
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Why does thermal resistance go down as temperature goes up?

Here is the thermal resistance data for three speaker coils disengaged from the speaker cone. Any ideas? I would think it would be a horizontal line. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_resistance ...
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Why is the decibel scale logarithmic?

Could someone explain in simple terms (let's say, limited to a high school calculus vocabulary) why decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale? (This isn't homework, just good old fashioned ...
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Why does water make a sound when it is disturbed?

When I disturb a body of water, what causes the familiar "water moving" sound?
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Difference in timbre between 'quiet' and 'far away'

I'd like to know what are the differences in timbre - or the acoustic properties of a sound - that allow us to differentiate between a sound which is quiet (but close-by) and one which is far away. ...
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468 views

Why does inverting a song have no influence?

I inverted the waveform of a given song and was wondering what will happen. The result is that it sounds the exact same way as before. I used Audacity and doublechecked if the wave-form really is ...
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Do low frequency sounds really carry longer distances?

It is a common belief that low frequencies travel longer distances. Indeed, the bass is really what you hear when the neighbor plays his HiFi loud (Woom Woom). Try asking people around, a lot of them ...
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2013 Russian meteor event, Sonic Boom or Explosion Boom?

In the lastest meteor event in Russia there was a big BOOM heard long after the meteor had passed. In this youtube video we can see at 4:30 the Meteor passing.. then hearing the BOOM at 7:00 , 150 ...
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_Actually_ hearing the shape of a drum

The problem of hearing the shape of a drum is well known as a mathematical problem. But what about as a problem of (1) physics and (2) human perception? Suppose you have the kind of membrane used ...
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Are small speakers inherently limited to higher frequencies?

I am hoping to build a subwoofer using multiple smaller speakers (165mm) instead of a single larger speaker (380mm). My theory is that the displaced air volume is what matters, not the individual ...
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Does light have timbre?

Timbre is a property associated with the shape of a sound wave, that is, the coefficients of the discrete Fourier transform of the corresponding signal. This is why a violin and a piano can each play ...
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Why do bass tones travel through walls?

I was in the shower while my roommate was listening to music and got to thinking about the fact that I could only hear the bass and lower drums through the walls. Why is this? The two possibilities I ...