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When we send white light through a prism, the light is decomposed in the colors that constitute it due to the different velocities which different frequencies. Is there a way to decompose "white sound" (in which all hearable frequencies are present just as in white light all visible colors are present) into its constituting waves? or will this automatically happen when such a wave travels through the air. If so, will we hear different sounds when we listen to the dispersed wave? Say a tone that increases in height, from the lowest hearable frequency to the highest?

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    $\begingroup$ Re, "...a tone that increases...from the lowest...frequency to the highest." Have you ever listened to the sound of thunder? If lightning strikes right outside the window where you are standing, all you hear is one sharp crack. (Don't ask me how I know!) If it's miles away, all you hear is a low rumble. Somewhere in-beteween, you'll hear the low rumble first, and it will build up to a "boom!" That happens because air is a dispersive medium for sound waves. The lower frequencies reach your ears before the higher frequencies reach you. $\endgroup$ May 16 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ @SolomonSlow I have asked a question about exactly what you describe! (the sound of thunder) (here: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/259582/…). Isn't the sound of thunder due also to the extent of the lightning? $\endgroup$ May 16 at 18:02
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More or less, this is what happens inside the human ear. The cochlea is shaped to lead to different frequencies resonating in different parts of the space. It is how we separate out different frequencies. This is the same as a prism, in that different frequencies are mapped to different locations.

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    $\begingroup$ The difference is that prisms map directions to directions, rather than to positions. Sound waves have too large wavelengths to travel in straight lines within the span of a human ear. $\endgroup$ May 16 at 18:26

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