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Sound is one of our most important forms of communication. The science of sound is known as acoustics.

In this chapter we learn about the physical properties of sound and how to describe sound in the language of waves. Frequency, wavelength, and intensity are other parameters characterizing sound. Audible sound corresponds to frequencies in the range of about 2020,000 Hz. Lower frequencies than this are called infrasonic, whereas higher frequencies are called ultrasonic and are discussed later in this chapter. From the general relation v/f, wavelengths of sound waves can range from cm to many meters. The pitch of sound is the audible sensation corresponding most closely to frequency; increas- ing frequency corresponds to increasing pitch. Intensity represents the energy per unit time (or the power) crossing a unit sur- face area. Units for intensity are therefore given by J/s/m2 or W/m2. The intensity of sound is discussed in some detail in the next section. Loudness is the audible sensa- tion corresponding most closely to intensity, although there is no direct relation. For example, at frequencies that are barely audible, a sound will not seem loud even if the intensity is quite large. We discuss loudness later in the chapter after discussing the ear and hearing. In this case, if the sound originates at a localized source and flows outward in all directions, the wavefronts are spherical and their surface area increases with radius from the source as A 4 r2. If the power emitted by the source of sound is constant, then as the spherical wave- front travels outward, the total amount of energy crossing any spherical shell centered at the source is the same. Therefore the energy per unit time crossing a unit area must decrease at increasing distances from the source. Mathematically, the intensity of sound is related to the power P, generated by the source and the distance r from the source by I PA

P 4pr2 Sound intensities vary over an enormous range. The least intense sound that can be heard by the human ear is called the threshold of hearing and is taken as 1012 W/m2. Of course, this value actually varies from person to person as well as with a persons age. As the intensity increases so does the perceived loudness. The most intense sound that the human ear can respond to without harm is called the threshold of pain and is taken as 1 W/m2. Because of the enormous range of intensities to which the ear responds, 12 orders of magnitude, sounds that are 10 times more intense do not seem 10 times as loud to the ear. In fact, the ear responds nearly log- arithmically to sound intensity, the sound loudness doubling for each decade increase in intensity. Aside from incidental sounds generated from chemical or other forms of energy, such as the crackling of a campfire or the noise when a branch of a tree falls (even in a for- est with no one around), the production of sound usually involves two requirements: a way to generate mechanical vibrations and a resonant cavity structure to amplify and shape the sound.

Sound at frequencies above 20,000 Hz is called ultrasound. Although our ears do not respond to sounds of those frequencies, many animals can hear at frequencies rang- ing up to 100 MHz. Ultrasound may be familiar to you from its use in ultrasonic cleaning baths (for jewelry or glassware), cool mist humidifiers, and fetal monitor- ing, a very common method of imaging a fetus within the womb. In this section we study some of the physical properties of ultrasound and its interaction with matter. Ultrasound differs from audible sound only in its higher frequency and corre- spondingly shorter wavelength. In most of the applications we discuss, ultrasound is traveling through water or biological tissue in which the speed of sound is quite a bit faster than in air.