Coppens, Alan B. Formerly, Physics Department, U.S. Navy Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.
Last reviewed:December 2018
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- Acoustic pressure
- Plane waves
- Harmonic waves
- Transient and continuous waves
- Standing waves
- Particle speed and displacement
- Description of sound
- Intensity, loudness, and the decibel
- Frequency and pitch
- Consonance and dissonance
- Frequency spectrum and timbre
- Propagation of sound
- Speed of sound
- Reflection and transmission
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The mechanical excitation of an elastic medium. A source of sound undergoes changes of shape, size, or position that disturb adjacent elements of the surrounding medium, causing them to move about their equilibrium positions. These disturbances in turn are transmitted elastically to neighboring elements. This chain of events propagates to larger and larger distances, constituting a wave traveling through the medium. If the wave contains the appropriate range of frequencies audible to humans—that is, not infrasonic or ultrasonic— and impinges on the ear, it generates the nerve impulses that are perceived as hearing (Fig. 1). See also: Hearing (human)
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