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Wavelength and Period:

The wavelength is the horizontal distance between any two successive equivalent points on the wave. That means that the
wavelength is the horizontal length of one cycle of the wave. The period of a wave is the time required for one complete
cycle of the wave to pass by a point. So, the period is the amount of time it takes for a wave to travel a distance of one


The amplitude of a sound is represented by the height of the wave. When there is a loud sound, the wave is high and the
amplitude is large. Conversely, a smaller amplitude represents a softer sound. A decibel is a scientific unit that measures
the intensity of sounds. The softest sound that a human can hear is the zero point. When the sound is twice as loud, the
decibel level goes up by six. Humans speak normally at 60 decibels.


Every cycle of sound has one condensation, a region of increased pressure, and one rarefaction, a region where air
pressure is slightly less than normal. The frequency of a sound wave is measured in hertz. Hertz (Hz) indicate the number
of cycles per second that pass a given location. If a speaker's diaphragm is vibrating back and forth at a frequency of 900
Hz, then 900 condensations are generated every second, each followed by a rarefaction, forming a sound wave whose
frequency is 900 Hz.


How the brain interprets the frequency of an emitted sound is called the pitch. We already know that the number of sound
waves passing a point per second is the frequency. The faster the vibrations the emitted sound makes (or the higher the
frequency), the higher the pitch. Therefore, when the frequency is low, the sound is lower.

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Factors that Affect the Speed of Sound

Physical Science

In school they teach the speed of sound is 1,126 feet per second. That is only part of the story and it is only partially true. The
reason for this is that the speed of sound changes.
The factors that effect the speed of sound are not random effects based on a whim but exact scientific principles that effect the
speed of sound. The exact number 1,126 feet per second is taken in some precise conditions: in dry air at 68% Fahrenheit. In
other words in the most “average” conditions possible. Therefore a great average, but it is variable.

Here are the factors that effect the speed of sound:

♦ Medium

Medium has a huge effect of the speed of sound. When most people discuss the “speed of sound” they are talking about the
propagation of sound waves through the medium of “Air”. For anyone who has gone underwater and listen to people talking
above it is likely that one would notice the muted an “odd” way that voices sound underwater. This is because the “medium” of
water greatly bends, distorts and changes the speed of sound wave.

There is a whole aspect of science that measure and defines the effect of different mediums (gaseous and liquid) on the speed of
sound. This is called Fluid Dynamics. Underwater communication is possible if you understand how this wave propagation as
well as another important factor (pressure).

Because of elasticity of materials sound will, as a rule of thumb, generally travel faster in solids than in liquids and faster in liquids
than in gases.

♦ Temperature

Temperature has a large effect on the speed of sound. Not as much as the “Medium” does, but far more than anything
else. Temperature affects the speed of sound because temperature can affect the “elastic” qualities of different mediums. At
the very basics lower temperatures will decrease the speed of sound while higher temperatures will increase the speed of sound,
all other factors being equal.

♦ Pressure

Pressure is the final factor that has a significant impact on the speed of sound. The effect of pressure on the speed of sound is
due to the materials inertial properties. In short, the more pressure that is applied to the material or medium the denser it
becomes and the greater the “inertia” becomes. This makes any interactions between particles slower. Therefore the speed of
sound throughout the medium is slowed due to the greater pressure.