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Acoustics



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The science of sound, which in its most general form endeavors to describe and interpret the phenomena associated with motional disturbances from equilibrium of elastic media. An elastic medium is one such that if any part of it's displaced from its original position with respect to the rest, as for example by an impact, it will return to its original state when the disturbing influence is removed. Acoustics was originally limited to the human experience produced by the stimulation of the human ear by sound incident from the surrounding air. Modern acoustics, however, deals with all sorts of sounds which have no relation to the human ear, for example, seismological disturbances and ultrasonics.



Basic acoustics may be divided into three branches, namely, production, transmission, and detection of sound. Any change of stress or pressure producing a local change in density or a local displacement from equilibrium in an elastic medium can serve as a source of sound. Transmission of sound takes place through an elastic medium by means of wave motion. The most important sound waves are harmonic waves, defined as waves for which the propagated disturbance at any point in its path varies sinusoidally with time with a definite frequency or number of complete cycles per second (the unit being the hertz). Acoustics deals with waves of all frequencies, but not all frequencies are audible by human beings, for whom the average range of audibility extends from 20 to 20,000 Hz. Sound below 20 Hz is referred to as infrasonic, and that above 20,000 Hz is called ultrasonic.

The detection of sound is made possible by the incidence of transmitted sound energy on an appropriate acoustic transducer such as the ear. For modern applied acoustics, transducers such as the microphone, based on the piezoelectric effect, are widely used. Generally speaking, any transducer used as a source of sound is also available as a detector, though the sensitivity varies considerably with the type.

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Updated: Friday, 2007-11-16 17:16 PST