How Fast Does the Speed of Sound Travel?

February 14, 2024

Sound requires some sort of medium in which it can travel (like air) but the speed of sound depends on the physical properties of that medium. You can see this for yourself by putting your cell phone in a jar and noticing that the ringer gets quieter and quieter as the air is drawn out.

In general, the denser the material, the faster sound waves will travel. The reason is that the closer together the molecules are, the tighter their bonds, so it's easier for sound to pass from one molecule to another.

If we take the example of a solid like a diamond, sound will travel at about 12,000 m/s which is 35 times the speed of light! However, it's not possible to achieve this speed in the real world.

Air is a very dense medium and so sound moves fairly fast through it, approximately 760 mph which is about 1100 feet per second. This is why you can hear a thunderclap before seeing the lightning.

The temperature of the medium affects how fast sound travels but the elastic properties also play a role. The higher the elastic properties, the harder it is to compress the medium and so the lower the speed of sound will be.


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