Q:

Can sound be refracted?

A:

Quick Answer

All types of waves, including sound waves, can be refracted when they interact with a medium or move from one medium to another. One example of refraction of sound is when the sound of thunder is refracted upwards because of a change in air temperature, from cold to warm.

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Full Answer

Sometimes, the sound of thunder is refracted upwards so dramatically that it creates a shadow zone. An observer standing in the shadow zone might be able to see the lightning but not hear the thunder, as the sound waves have been refracted. Similarly, sound can be refracted downwards because of variation in the surface temperature. Downwards refraction of sound is the reason people can sometimes hear conversations from across a lake.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is the reflection of sound?

    A:

    When sound waves strike a surface, they reflect off of that surface and can return to the source of the sound as an echo. To a listener, this may be identical to the original sound, just delayed and possibly distorted by its path through the air. If the echo arrives quickly enough, it may seem to be part of the original sound, forming a reverberation instead of an echo.

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  • Q:

    How much faster does sound travel through water than air?

    A:

    At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, sound waves propagate approximately four times faster in water than in air. The speed of sound in water is around 3,170 mph, while the speed of sound in air is only about 740 mph. At room temperature, which is equivalent to 68 degrees, acoustic waves travel in water and air at speeds of 3,315 mph and 767 mph, respectively.

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  • Q:

    What causes echoes?

    A:

    An echo is caused when sound waves bounce off of a surface and travel back to the ears. Echoes commonly occur when loud sounds are emitted into an empty room or down a well. The echo occurs when sound is reflected off water in the well or walls in rooms.

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  • Q:

    How is an echo produced?

    A:

    Echoes are created by sound waves being reflected off of a large obstacle. Conditions have to be just right for the echo to be heard as a separate sound.

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