How Do Sound Waves Travel?

A tower with loudspeakers against a summer sky.
••• John Kelly/iStock/Getty Images

In physics, a wave is a disturbance that travels through a medium such as air or water, and moves energy from one place to another. Sound waves, as the name implies, bear a form of energy that our biological sensory equipment -- i.e., our ears and brains -- recognize as noise, be it the pleasant sound of music or the grating cacophony of a jackhammer.

Basic Properties

Sound waves have several features in common with other waves. One is that they must have a substrate, or medium, in which to travel; some are more suitable than others. A second is that they must have a source -- say, the plucking of a guitar string or two hands clapping together. A third is that they transmit energy through direct particle-to-particle interaction, which means that they are a type of mechanical wave.

Media

Sound waves can travel through any material, but not in a vacuum, which is why there is no sound in outer space. The speed of sound in air is about 330 m/s, meaning that it covers a mile in about five seconds. Sound actually travels at far quicker speeds in other media; for example, in biological tissues, it moves at 1,540 m/s.

Related Articles

How Does Light Travel?
Properties of Infrared Light
Differences Between Protozoa & Protists
How is Light Transmitted?
How Does a Transducer Work?
How to Calculate Photons Per Second
Difference Between Protozoans & Algae
Type of Energy Produced by Photosynthesis
How Does a Paper Cup Phone Work?
What Is a 52 dB(A)?
How Does Water Affect Sound?
How to Convert Nanometers to Joules
Infrared Vs. Visible Light
How Does the Earth Receive Heat From the Sun?
Three Types of Heat Transfers

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!