• Samantha Hathway

Soundbites No 1 – Three Handy Acoustic Facts

Today heralds the first of many Soundbites, a fortnightly series of quick facts, useful snippets, dispelled myths, unrealised truths, cocktail party quips – all from the fascinating, but often confusing, world of acoustics.

Consider it a short course covering just the useful bits of acoustics, conveniently delivered to your LinkedIn feed, Pulse reading list or inbox every couple of weeks. If you want to know more, please add a comment on LinkedIn or fire us a message and we will be delighted to respond.

Just to ease us all in gently, here are three acoustic facts to get us started and give a taste of things to come:

1. Sound requires a medium to travel through – whether that’s a gas (e.g. air), a liquid (like water) or a solid (like concrete). No medium = no sound. So, the phrase “In space, no-one can hear you scream!” is correct, as there is little or no air in space to transmit the sound. By the same reasoning, the Big Bang probably would have just been a Big Flash!

2. The speed of sound is about a million times slower than the speed of light. This is why, when there’s a thunderstorm, we see the lightning a while before we hear the thunder (unless the storm is overhead!). Both have come from the same place, but the lightning travels to us a million times faster than the thunder.

3. Water is actually a more efficient transmitter of sound than air – so why can’t we hear very well underwater? Well, our ears rely on a roughly equal air pressure either side of the ear drum and when submerged we have a load of water pressed up against one side, so our ears don’t work anywhere near as well as they should.

Next on Soundbites – Why does my voice ‘carry’ so far when the office is quiet?

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