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Light vs.


If sound is a wave, whats

Light vs. Sound

What makes a light wave

different from a sound wave?
Light vs. Sound

What makes a light wave

different from a sound wave?
Light travels a lot faster than sound:
Speed of light in air = 300,000,000 meters per second
Speed of sound in air (at 0 Celsius) = 331 meters per

At room temperature this increases to about 343 m/s.

Light vs. Sound

What makes a light wave

different from a sound wave?
Light can travel in empty space
Sound cant because sound is the compression of the
For sound traveling in air, sound wave is made of
variations in the pressure of the air
Air Pressure
Sound Wave = variation in pressure
Pressure = Force / Area
Air exerts a force (presses against
Normally air pressure is not very
noticeable because it tends to press
on all side of a surface evenly
Air pressure is greatest at sea level (P
= 1 atmosphere, or 1 atm)
Air Pressure: Examples

Plastic bottle on airplane

Using a straw
Vacuum cleaner
Vacuum Chamber experiments
Sound Wave
Loud Sound -> Big
variation in air

Crest of wave:
region of high

Trough of wave:
Region of lower-than-
usual pressure
Animation from Physics

Gray = atmospheric pressure

Dark = high pressure
Light = low pressure
Sound Waves Travel As Variations in
Transverse vs.
Light is a transverse wave:
Transverse means that the wave travels perpendicular to
the displacement

Sound is a compression wave

The wave travels in the same direction as the

Waves on a slinky?
The Wave in a stadium?
Waves on a string?
Whats the medium
of an earthquake?

P-waves are
compression waves

S-waves are
transverse waves

Travel at different
Seeing Sound Waves
A microphone converts pressure waves
to electrical signals.
An oscilloscope takes an electrical
signal as input and displays a graph
of the signal as a function of time

Do you think an
oscilloscope could
be used to measure
wavelength, or both?
The Octave
Octave = 8 notes apart
Going an octave higher means doubling
the frequency of a note

Going an octave lower means halving the

frequency of a note

Octave demo with oscilloscope:

Perception of Sound

PhET Simulation:
What determines how fast a wave travels?

Can you make a wave go faster by putting

more energy into the wave?

What, physically, is sound?

Give examples of longitudinal waves and

transverse waves.