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What is Sound?


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sound wave from loud speakerSound in simple terms, is a vibration that is transmitted through an elastic material or a solid, liquid, or gas. For sound to travel, it will always need a medium to travel through. These mediums are the three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas. Sound is transmitted by particles (atoms or molecules) in a solid, liquid or gas colliding with each other. It is a wave which is created by vibrating objects and propagated through a medium from one location to another. As such, a sound wave can be described by a variety of properties (properties of waves) such as amplitude, frequency, period, speed and wavelength.

Sound travels in different ways depending on the medium. Sound travels fastest through solids (atoms are closely packed and fixed in position), slightly less fast through liquids (molecules are loosely packed and slightly further apart) and slower through gases (molecules are far apart). Sound traveling through a medium of vibrating particles passes on the vibration from particle to another (a domino effect), as it moves away from the vibrating source. Below is a diagram of a tuning fork demonstrating this.
tuning fork
Thus, sound is mechanical energy vibrations transmitted as longitudinal waves (i.e. wave propagated in direction particles vibrate) that successively passes through a medium (solid, liquid or gas - the three states of matter). It can be detected by a mechanical or electromechanical transducer such as; a barometer, microphone, or the human ear. Vibrations of frequencies in the approximate range of 15 to 20,000 hertz, can be detected by human ears.

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