Physics - The Study of Sound

Music is a very familiar sound!

Physics - The Study of Sound

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Beyond being able to see, hearing is perhaps the most crucial means by which man and animals survive. Without the ability to hear, we would face a wide variety of dangers, dangers that produce a sound long before we can see the danger.

Sound is simply a series of vibrations that cause an audible wave (also referred to as a mechanical wave) of pressure to pass through a medium such as air, gases and liquids. When sound passes through one of these forms of mediums, it creates a longitudinal wave. When sound passes through a solid medium it creates a transverse wave.

Longitudinal sound waves are waves of alternating pressure while transverse waves are waves of alternating stress at a right angle to the direction of the sound’s origin.

The study of sound that deals with mechanical waves is known as acoustics while the person who studies sound itself is called an acoustical engineer. An audio engineer should not be mistaken for an acoustical engineer as an audio engineer is concerned about records, manipulating, mixing and reproducing sounds.

Did you know that although it is the ear that hears the sound, it is the brain that interprets what the sound is?

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Forms of Sound

Pitch: Pitch is the property of sound. It varies in frequency and intensity. (Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event over a specified amount of time.)

Doppler Effect: The Doppler effect is the change in frequency of sound waves as the source of the wave moves in relationship to where the observer is located.

Loudness: Loudness is the level at which sound is heard.

Decibel: A decibel is a unit of measure in which the intensity of sound is measured.

Noise: Noise is often used to describe sounds that are unwanted as they are irritating. But what may be noise to one person may be music to another so it is very subjective.

The Behavior of Sound

The behavior of sound is affected in three distinct ways that include the relationship between density (volume of mass) and pressure. For example, temperature can affect the speed of sound as the density of the atmosphere changes as temperatures rise and fall. In addition, the temperature can change the pressure of the air. This change can speed up sound or slow it down.

The behavior of sound is also affected by motion. For example, take a person playing a guitar. While they stand directly in front of you the music is loud and clear but as they move to either your right or left or to your back or a greater distance away from you, the intensity of the sound will audibly change even though at the source, the sound level has remained consistent.

Third is the viscosity of the medium producing a particular audible sound. The viscosity will determine the rate in which the sound will travel or flow.

Speed of Sound

The actual speed of sound will be determined by the medium it must pass through. Isaac Newton believed that the speed of sound was equal to the square root of the pressure action upon it divided by its density. And you just thought sound was sound.

Now that you have had a simple, basic review of sound, see if you can find the correct answers for each of the following ten questions.
1.
This interprets what sound is.
Audible waves
The brain
The ear
Acoustics
Although the ear hears the sound it is the brain that interprets what sound is. Answer (b) is correct
2.
An audible wave is also referred to as a ____________.
mechanical wave
longitudinal wave
traverse wave
transverse wave
An audible wave is also referred to as a mechanical wave. Answer (a) is correct
3.
When sound passes through a solid medium it creates a _________.
frequency
pitch
transverse wave
longitudinal wave
When sound passes through a solid medium it creates a transverse wave. Answer (c) is correct
4.
This is the property of sound. It varies in frequency and intensity.
Decibel
Pitch
Loudness
Noise
Pitch is the property of sound. It varies in frequency and intensity. Answer (b) is correct
5.
A person who studies sound is called __________.
an audio engineer
a doppler engineer
a soundologist
an acoustical engineer
A person who studies sound is called an acoustical engineer. Answer (d) is correct
6.
This measures the intensity of sound.
Doppler effect
Pitch
Decibel
Noise
A decibel measures the intensity of sound. Answer (c) is correct
7.
This is the level at which sound is heard.
Noise
Frequency
Decibel
Loudness
Loudness is the level at which sound is heard. Answer (d) is correct
8.
The behavior of sound is also affected by ______.
liquids
gases
motion
temperature
The behavior of sound is also affected by motion. Answer (c) is correct
9.
This will determine the rate in which sound will travel or flow.
Pressure
Viscosity
Medium
Frequency
Viscosity will determine the rate in which sound will travel or flow. Answer (b) is correct
10.
The behavior of sound is affected in three distinct ways that include the relationship between ______ and pressure.
density
temperature
location
medium
The behavior of sound is affected in three distinct ways that include the relationship between density and pressure. Answer (a) is correct

 

Author:  Christine G. Broome

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