# Physics of sound

The mechanical vibrations that can be interpreted as sound are able to travel through all forms of matter: gases, liquids, solids, and plasmas. The matter that supports the sound is called the medium. Sound cannot travel through a vacuum. Longitudinal and transverse waves Sound is transmitted through gases, plasma, and liquids as longitudinal waves, also called compression waves. Through solids, however, it can be transmitted as both longitudinal waves and transverse waves. Longitudinal sound waves are waves of alternating pressure deviations from the equilibrium pressure, causing local regions of compression and rarefaction, while transverse waves (in solids) are waves of alternating shear stress at right angle to the direction of propagation. Matter in the medium is periodically displaced by a sound wave, and thus oscillates. The energy carried by the sound wave converts back and forth between the potential energy of the extra compression (in case of longitudinal waves) or lateral displacement strain (in case of transverse waves) of the matter and the kinetic energy of the oscillations of the medium. Sound wave properties and characteristics Sinusoidal waves of various frequencies; the bottom waves have higher frequencies than those above. The horizontal axis represents time. Sound waves are often simplified to a description in terms of sinusoidal plane waves, which are characterized by these generic properties: Frequency, or its inverse, the period Wavelength Wavenumber Amplitude Sound pressure Sound intensity Speed of sound Direction Sometimes speed and direction are combined as a velocity vector; wavenumber and direction are combined as a wave vector. Transverse waves, also known as shear waves, have the additional property, polarization, and are not a characteristic of sound waves. Speed of sound U.S. Navy F/A-18 approaching the sound barrier

The white halo is formed by condensed water droplets thought to result from a drop in air pressure around the aircraft (see Prandtl-Glauert Singularity).[4][5] Main article: Speed of sound The speed of sound depends on the medium the waves pass through, and is a fundamental property of the material. In general, the speed of sound is proportional to the square root of the ratio of the elastic modulus (stiffness) of the medium to its density. Those physical properties and the speed of sound change with ambient conditions. For example, the speed of sound in gases depends on temperature. In 20 °C (68 °F) air at sea level, the speed of sound is approximately 343 m/s (1,230 km/h; 767 mph) using the formula "v = (331 + 0.6 T) m/s". In fresh water, also at 20 °C, the speed of sound is approximately 1,482 m/s (5,335 km/h; 3,315 mph). In steel, the speed of sound is about 5,960 m/s (21,460 km/h; 13,330 mph).[6] The speed of sound is also slightly sensitive (a second-order anharmonic effect) to the sound amplitude, which means that there are nonlinear propagation effects, such as the production of harmonics and mixed tones not present in the original sound (see parametric array). Acoustics Main article: Acoustics Acoustics is the interdisciplinary science that deals with the study of all mechanical waves in gases, liquids, and solids including vibration, sound, ultrasound and infrasound. A scientist who works in the field of acoustics is an acoustician while someone working in the field of acoustics technology may be called an acoustical or audio engineer. The application of acoustics can be seen in almost all aspects of modern society with the most obvious being the audio and noise control industries. Noise Main article: Noise Noise is a term often used to refer to an unwanted sound. In science and engineering, noise is an undesirable component that obscures a wanted signal.