Do sound waves always travel in straight lines?

Do sound waves always travel in straight lines : Sound

Do sound waves always travel in straight lines


Sound waves and their behavior have always been fascinating to scientists and researchers. Sound waves are invisible, and it is often misunderstood that they always travel in straight lines. However, the reality is quite the opposite. The path taken by sound waves depends on various factors like temperature, pressure, density, and even gravity.

Underwater or inhomogeneous media with varying densities cause sound waves to refract or bend from their original path. Reflection also alters the trajectory of soundwaves; they bounce off surfaces and change direction. Diffraction occurs when a wave encounters an obstacle; it bends around the edges of the object and spreads outwards.

It is notable that these variations do not occur uniformly across all frequencies, which means different frequencies may take varying paths through the same medium. Knowing about these interesting phenomena can allow us to control and manipulate soundwaves for particular purposes like sonar technology or medical imaging.

Understanding the behavior of sound waves helps predict their movement through different mediums accurately. Engineers use this knowledge to design better acoustic systems for devices such as microphones, speakers, noise-canceling headphones etc. Implementing strategic designs could significantly improve audio quality as well as reduce noise pollution in society.

Get ready to make some noise as we dive into the basics of sound waves because silence is overrated.

Basics of Sound Waves

Sound waves are mechanical vibrations that propagate through a medium. They travel by compressing and expanding the molecules of the medium they are traversing. Sound waves can travel in different directions, including up, down, left, right, and even around corners. However, when sound waves pass through a homogeneous medium with no interference, they typically travel in straight lines.

The speed at which sound travels depends on various factors such as the temperature, density, composition of the medium and other features like standing waves between closely-spaced hard surfaces that can cause echoes. Longitudinal (back and forth) waves are used to measure these speeds.

It is essential to remember that sound waves require a medium to travel through. Therefore, sound cannot move across empty space because it requires molecules or atoms of a particular substance to vibrate against one another. This vibration creates pressure changes within each molecule’s kinetic energy field.

Finally, understanding the fundamentals of soundwave behavior is crucial for many areas of research and development. From advances in medical imaging to seismic analysis in geology – taking this knowledge into practical application has far-reaching consequences. Don’t miss out on learning more about this interesting topic!

Sound waves travel like a game of hot potato, passing energy from one molecule to the next until it reaches our eardrums and we realize the potato’s actually a sick beat.

Question : How Sound Waves Travel

To understand how sound waves travel in different mediums, explore the section ‘How Sound Waves Travel’ with the sub-sections: ‘Straight Line Propagation of Sound Waves’ and ‘Factors Affecting the Propagation of Sound Waves’. Get insights into the properties of sound waves and how they change as they travel through air, water, and other materials.

Straight Line Propagation of Sound Waves

Sound Wave Propagation in a Straight Line

As sound waves travel through different mediums, they tend to follow a straight line path. Focusing on the fundamentals of straight line propagation helps us understand how sound waves travel and interact with the environment around them.

Medium Speed of Sound (m/s) Example
Air (at 20°C) 343 Audible speech, Music
Water (at 20°C) 1480 Dolphins communication
Steel 5960 Sonar detection in submarines

Sound waves move faster in denser materials and slower in less dense ones. For instance, sound moves faster through steel than water, making it easier to detect disturbances in the ocean using sonar technology.

To enhance sound wave propagation, one can try increasing the amount of hard reflecting surfaces around. These surfaces reflect the sound wave energy and help redirect them towards receivers. The arrangement of speakers and microphone positions also play an important role in propagating sound waves effectively.

Sound waves may travel faster in helium, but they sound more chipmunk than Mozart.

Factors Affecting the Propagation of Sound Waves

Understanding the mechanics of sound waves propagation is essential to its application in everyday life. Several factors impact this phenomenon, some of which include temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure. In addition to these, the choice of materials for transmission also influences the way sound waves travel. The type of medium through which sound travels can alter its speed and quality.

The environment plays a significant role because sound waves react differently in different conditions. Higher temperatures cause an increase in molecular agitation within a substance, leading to more interference with the propagation path of sound waves. Similarly, rapid changes in air pressure or density create areas where reflections or refraction occurs causing phase changes that affect wave propagation.

Sound is most effectively transmitted through solids and liquids than gases because they offer greater resistance to particle motion and therefore less dispersion effect since they’re denser than gases. However, the acoustic properties of solids play an equal role in determining how effectively sound propagates through them; metals are particularly effective since they efficiently conduct both heat and electricity from one side to the other without any unnecessary power loss affecting wave transmission.

These scientific principles have practical applications. For example, engineers can design better acoustics for buildings using knowledge about how different materials transmit sounds across structured surfaces and rooms where echoes are reflected off walls create uneven resonance due to standing waves acting upon themselves over extended periods.

From breaking glass to healing bones, sound waves sure have a lot of applications, proving that noise pollution isn’t always a bad thing.

Significant Applications of Sound Waves

To understand the significant applications of sound waves with medical, industrial, and communication fields, the sub-sections offer a detailed brief of each vast area. The medical application of sound waves, industrial application of sound waves, and communication application of sound waves, each utilize sound waves in different ways to accomplish various tasks that are vital for safety, productivity, and human wellness.

Medical Applications of Sound Waves

The use of acoustic waves has significantly contributed to the advancement of medical science. Surprisingly, the medical applications of sound waves are unfathomable.

Ultrasound technology is one such application that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of internal body parts, aiding in diagnosing health conditions. It is also used for monitoring fetus development during pregnancy. Additionally, lithotripsy employs high-energy sound waves to break down kidney stones and gallstones, reducing surgery time and patient recovery period.

Interestingly, extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is a procedure that utilizes low-intensity soundwaves to stimulate natural healing processes by boosting blood flow in damaged tissues, making it an efficient noninvasive orthopedic treatment option for individuals suffering from Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

Moreover, high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is another highly promising medical application of sound waves that destroys cancer cells by causing them to heat up without harming surrounding healthy tissues. HIFU has been studied extensively as a potential alternative treatment option for breast cancer.

Pro Tip: The versatility and adaptability of soundwaves make it an invaluable tool in medicine as research continues into its various potential applications.

Who knew sound waves could be so productive? Industrial applications turn up the volume on innovation.

Industrial Applications of Sound Waves

Sound Waves have numerous industrial applications that bring value, ranging from medical diagnosis to waste management.

Application Description
Ultrasonic Testing Using sound waves to detect defects in materials.
Sonar Technology Locating and mapping underwater objects or terrain.
Industrial Cleaning Cleaning and removing contaminants from pipes and surfaces using high-frequency sound waves.
Acoustic Imaging Identifying and studying the internal structure of solid objects by analyzing the echoes of sound waves.

Apart from these commonly known industrial applications, Sound Waves are also used for industrial purposes like measuring air quality, monitoring fluid levels, detecting gas leaks, and improving machine efficiency.

The application of Sound Waves history dates back to the early times when people use echo location for hunting. During World War II, acoustic torpedoes were developed which uses sound waves altogether with radio communication systems. Since then, Sound Wave technology has significantly advanced and has become useful in various industries.

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Who needs a phone plan when you can just scream at the top of your lungs? Communication just got a whole lot cheaper.

Communication Applications of Sound Waves

The use of sound waves in communication has significant applications across various industries. These acoustic signals are utilized in numerous forms such as radio, telephone, public address systems, and more.

In radio broadcasting, sound waves are transmitted over the airwaves to reach a vast audience. Similarly, in telephone networks, signals are passed from one location to another through the use of sound waves. Moreover, public address systems utilize sound waves to broadcast announcements or music in large gatherings.

Sound waves have also revolutionized underwater communications by enabling submarines to communicate with other vessels and HQs above water. Further advancements in underwater technology have made it possible for offshore drilling platforms to communicate with divers using acoustic waves.

Pro Tip: Acoustic communication is not just limited to verbal transmissions but can be used to send data as well. This has led to innovative technologies like underwater acoustic modems that enable faster and more reliable data communication between subsea systems.

Even if you were tone-deaf before, this article has given you a sound understanding of the significant applications of sound waves.

Are you one of those people who have wondered how a whisper in the corner of a room can somehow end up in the ears of someone standing on the other side? Or perhaps, you’ve been intrigued by the swiftness and direction with which noises dash from their sources to their final destinations? Then, you’re about to embark on a riveting exploration of the fascinating world of sound waves and their paths. Before we jump in, let’s take a moment to imagine all our natural surroundings — breeze rustling through the trees, waves crashing on the shore, and laughter floating through the air — stripped of their sonic elements. It would be unnerving, wouldn’t it? Life without sound seems almost unfathomable, and yet, we so often take this omnipresent phenomenon for granted. So, let’s plug in our cranium speakers and dive into the depths of an auditory adventure to discover whether sound waves always travel in straight lines or if they have a few tricks up their sleeves. Grab your magnifying glasses and ear trumpets, my fellow acoustic aficionados, for we are about to unravel the mysteries of sound and its transmission!


1. Sound travels as waves of energy

Sound travels as waves of energy, and these waves are responsible for transmitting sound through various mediums such as air, water, or solid materials. The way these sound waves travel can sometimes seem quite complex, but one thing that can be said is that these energy waves don’t always travel in straight lines.

The movement of sound waves is determined by the medium through which they propagate. In some cases, sound waves might travel in relatively straight lines, such as when moving through a uniform medium like air or water. However, in other situations where the medium is not consistent, sound waves can bend or reflect, leading to a more curved or even zig-zag path. This phenomenon is known as diffraction, and it causes sound waves to spread out or bend around obstacles, such as walls or corners.

One interesting aspect of sound wave propagation is that the speed of sound waves is influenced by factors such as temperature, pressure, and the composition of the medium they are traveling through. For example, sound waves travel faster in denser materials like solids than in less dense materials such as gases. This variation in speed can also cause sound waves to bend or refract, which can make it seem as though they are not moving in straight lines.

In summary, while sound waves may initially appear to travel in straight lines in a consistent medium, factors such as medium inconsistencies, diffraction, and variations in speed can result in a more complex wave pattern. Understanding the intricacies of sound wave propagation is essential in various fields, including audio engineering, acoustics, and noise control. [1][2]


2. Sound waves transmit energy by changing the motion of particles

Sound waves are fascinating natural phenomena that play an integral role in our daily lives. These waves transmit energy by changing the motion of particles, like the molecules of air, water, or even solid objects. Sound waves originate from a vibrating source, which disturbs the particles in the surrounding medium. This disturbance triggers a chain reaction, where each particle collides with its neighboring particles in a domino effect.

Contrary to popular belief, sound waves do not always travel in straight lines. They propagate outwards in a spherical pattern, similar to the ripple effect observed in water. When the medium through which sound waves travel is uniform, they spread evenly in all directions. However, when they encounter obstacles or changes in the medium, they can bend or refract around the objects, altering their overall trajectory.

A prime example of this bending phenomenon can be observed in the process of diffraction. When a sound wave encounters a barrier with an opening, it bends around the edges and enters the space on the other side. This results in sounds being heard even when the listener is not in a direct line with the source.

Moreover, sound waves can also bounce off surfaces, causing them to change direction. This is known as reflection and is responsible for the phenomenon of echoes. When sound waves hit a reflective surface, they rebound, and if the listener is positioned correctly, they can hear the original sound along with the reflected sound, or echo.

In summary, sound waves transmit energy by changing the motion of particles through a medium. While they may primarily travel in straight lines, they are highly adaptable and can bend, refract, or reflect, depending on the circumstances they encounter. This complex behavior is what makes sound waves such an intriguing and essential aspect of our world. [3][4]

3. The particles move in the same direction as the wave

In the world of sound, waves possess unique characteristics as they navigate through various mediums. One of the most fascinating traits of sound waves is the way their particles move – always in the same direction as the wave itself. This may seem counterintuitive to some, considering that other types of waves, such as water ripples or seismic waves, exhibit complex patterns of movement. However, when it comes to sound, the simplicity of its particles’ motion is vital for the transmission and reception of audio information.

Sound waves are classified as longitudinal waves, meaning their particles vibrate parallel to the direction in which the wave travels. This is in contrast to transverse waves, where particles vibrate perpendicularly or at right angles to the wave’s direction. In sound waves, the particles travel through compressions and rarefactions, which are areas of high and low pressure, respectively. The motion of these particles is the driving force behind our ability to perceive sound, as they transmit audio signals through vibrations in the air that eventually reach our eardrums.

While it may initially appear that sound waves only travel in straight lines, they can actually bend, refract, and diffract around obstacles or through different mediums. This phenomenon, known as diffraction, occurs because sound waves have a wide range of frequencies and wavelengths. The extent to which a sound wave will diffract depends on the size of the obstacle and the wavelength of the sound wave itself.

In conclusion, the particles in sound waves do indeed move in the same direction as the wave, allowing for the effective transmission of audio information. Although sound waves may appear to travel in straight lines, they can also bend and refract around obstacles, demonstrating the incredible versatility of these longitudinal waves. [5][6]

4. Longitudinal sound waves make areas of high and low density

Longitudinal sound waves are a distinctive type of wave that results from the vibrations of particles in a medium, such as air or water. These waves possess a unique characteristic that sets them apart from other wave types: the particles in the medium move in a direction that is parallel to the direction of energy transport. In other words, as the wave moves through the medium, particles oscillate back and forth in the same direction that the wave is traveling. This motion creates areas of high and low density within the medium, which play a significant role in the propagation of sound.

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In a longitudinal sound wave, areas of high density, known as compressions, occur when particles are pushed close together due to the movement of the wave. Conversely, areas of low density, called rarefactions, form when particles are pulled further apart. As the wave travels through the medium, these alternating regions of high and low density enable the transfer of energy from one particle to the next. This continuous exchange of energy allows the sound wave to propagate over great distances.

Despite their relatively simple structure, longitudinal sound waves exhibit complex behavior that can significantly impact the way we perceive sound. For example, the areas of high and low density within the wave can interact with various surfaces and obstacles, causing the sound to bend, reflect, or scatter. This interaction can lead to a diverse range of auditory phenomena, such as echoes, reverberation, and diffraction.

In conclusion, longitudinal sound waves play a crucial role in our ability to perceive sound by creating areas of high and low density within a medium. These density fluctuations enable the efficient transfer of energy and contribute to the rich complexity of the auditory world around us. [7][8]


5. Standing waves do not move faster

Standing waves, unlike regular sound waves, do not move. This phenomenon occurs when a wave becomes trapped, preventing it from transmitting energy to other particles. For instance, the water wave sloshing back and forth in a bathtub is an example of a trapped wave. Similarly, when a musician plays a wind instrument, such as a flute, the air inside the tube forms standing waves. These waves bounce off one another and do not dissipate as long as the musician continues to blow air into the instrument.

The unique behavior of standing waves is due to the constant pressure applied to them. In the case of the flute, the musician’s breath pushes the first set of air particles, which in turn transmit energy to the neighboring particles. This constant pressure ensures that the particles in that area do not become compressed or stretched apart, instead moving back and forth collectively. The alternating groups of particles, some moving back and forth and others compressing and decompressing, are what create the unique motion of standing waves.

One essential aspect of standing waves is the presence of nodes, which are areas where the amplitude of motion is zero. In other words, some particles remain stationary, while others have maximum displacement at antinodes. To better understand the relationship between the stationary and mobile particles in the standing wave, one can examine longitudinal displacement graphs, which represent the horizontal displacement of air particles, and pressure variation graphs, which show the corresponding pressure changes that occur as the particles move within the wave structure.

In summary, standing waves differ from regular sound waves as they do not move and are characterized by alternating groups of static and dynamic particles. This principle is exemplified in musical wind instruments and helps explain the unique behavior of these waves. [9][10]


6. Air is pushed to create movement in waves

Sound waves, a type of mechanical wave, require a medium to propagate. In most cases, air serves as the medium through which sound travels. When a vibrating object, like a tuning fork or guitar string, pushes air molecules, it generates a pressure wave propagating the energy of the sound. These air movements create a sequence of compressions and rarefactions, that is, areas of high and low air pressure.

Contrary to popular belief, sound waves do not always travel in straight lines. They can be impacted by several factors such as temperature, pressure, and the presence of obstacles. These factors can cause sound waves to bend, reflect, or even diffract, leading to distortions or weakening of the sound.

Firstly, temperature gradients in air can cause sound waves to refract or bend. For example, when warm air rises from a heater, it creates a temperature gradient that causes sound waves to bend away from the heat source. Similar effects are observed when sound waves travel from a colder to a warmer region.

Secondly, pressure changes can also impact the path of sound waves. Variations in atmospheric pressure can cause sound waves to bend, especially over long distances. Typically, sound waves travel faster in high-pressure areas and slower in low-pressure areas.

Lastly, sound waves can be affected by obstacles, such as walls or buildings. When a sound wave encounters an obstacle, it can reflect, leading to sound bouncing off surfaces like an echo. Additionally, if the obstacle has an opening or is thin compared to the wavelength, sound waves can diffract, bending around the obstacle.

In conclusion, although sound waves generally travel in straight lines through air, various factors can cause them to deviate from their path, leading to complex interactions and movements. [11][12]

7. Constant pressure is provided to create sound in wind instruments

Sound in wind instruments, such as flutes or clarinets, is created through the manipulation of air pressure. These instruments work by a musician applying constant pressure to one end of the instrument, resulting in the displacement of air molecules, which then leads to the creation of sound waves.

When a musician blows into a wind instrument, they are essentially increasing the pressure of the air inside the instrument, causing the air particles to move. These air particles then collide with surrounding particles, transferring the energy and continuing the chain reaction. This constant pressure is crucial for maintaining the vibration of air molecules inside the instrument, which, in turn, creates the sound waves that we hear as music.

As the musician continues to blow into the instrument, the air inside is trapped and starts to oscillate or “slosh” back and forth. This phenomenon results in a standing wave, which is a wave that doesn’t move but instead oscillates between two fixed points. Standing waves occur when multiple sound waves inside the instrument interact with each other, bouncing off the walls of the instrument and creating a unique pattern of particle motion.

The formation of standing waves within a wind instrument helps to produce a rich, resonant sound. Additionally, the musician can manipulate the sound produced by the instrument by adjusting their breath pressure or the position of their fingers on the instrument’s keys, which alters the frequency and amplitude of the standing waves.

In conclusion, constant pressure is essential in producing sound in wind instruments, as it enables the creation and maintenance of standing waves within the instrument. These standing waves are responsible for generating the distinct musical tones that we associate with different wind instruments. [13][14]

8. Two groups of particles alternate in wind instruments

In wind instruments, the movement of air particles is governed by a fascinating pattern that involves two distinct groups of particles. These groups alternate in their behavior, resulting in the unique sounds produced by instruments such as flutes, clarinets, and trumpets.

The first group of particles is responsible for creating a constant pressure in the instrument. As a musician blows into the instrument, they provide a steady force that sets the air particles in motion. This group of particles moves back and forth as a cohesive unit, maintaining the constant pressure necessary to generate sound waves.

The second group of particles, however, behaves quite differently. As the first group moves back and forth, the particles in the second group are either compressed together or drawn apart. This alternating pattern of compression and rarefaction is a key characteristic of sound waves, and it is this group of particles that ultimately carries the energy from the musician’s breath through the instrument and out into the surrounding air.

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In between these two primary groups, there are also some intermediary particles that display a blend of both behaviors. These “straggler” particles contribute to the overall complexity of the sound wave, lending richness and depth to the sound produced by the instrument.

In conclusion, the interplay between these two alternating groups of particles is an essential component of the sound generation process in wind instruments. Through their intricate cooperation, they transform the musician’s breath into the beautiful, resonant sounds that have captivated audiences for centuries. Furthermore, understanding this alternating pattern can help deepen our appreciation for the remarkable acoustical properties of these beloved instruments. [15][16]

9. Sound is energy produced by things that vibrate

Sound is an intriguing and integral aspect of our everyday lives, functioning as a form of energy produced by objects that vibrate. This energy travels through various mediums, such as air, water, and solids, in the form of sound waves. These vibrations cause the surrounding particles in the medium to be disturbed, thereby creating a wave-like pattern of movement. This is why sound is often perceived as having a distinctive wave-like quality, hence the term “sound wave.”

In general, sound waves are classified as longitudinal waves, where all the particles in a medium (such as air, water, or solids) vibrate in the same direction as the wave. This is distinct from transverse waves, which involve particles vibrating perpendicularly to the direction of the wave’s movement. Examples of transverse waves include ripples on water surfaces, while sound waves remain as longitudinal waves in most cases.

When discussing the characteristics of sound waves, it’s important to note that they typically travel in straight lines, similar to light waves. However, factors such as the medium and any obstacles that may be present can cause the sound waves to bend or be absorbed, which affects the direction in which they travel. This phenomenon, known as refraction or diffraction, can change the trajectory of sound waves and cause them to deviate from their original straight paths.

In essence, sound waves are a captivating form of energy generated by vibrating objects, traveling in a wave-like pattern through various mediums. While these waves often travel in straight lines, external factors can influence their paths, leading to deviations from their original trajectory. Understanding the science behind sound waves and their movements can enrich our appreciation for this remarkable and ever-present aspect of our lives. [17][18]

10. Sound cannot travel through a vacuum

Sound waves, while fascinating in their many aspects, are unlike light waves in a key respect – they cannot travel through a vacuum. This is because sound needs a medium, such as air, water, or a solid, to propagate through. Simply put, if there is no medium to carry sound waves, they cannot travel, and as a result, no sound can be heard. This intriguing characteristic of sound waves results from the nature of the waves themselves, which are mechanical vibrations that require particles to bump into one another and transfer energy.

The famous 17th-century English scientist, Robert Boyle, was the first to discover this property of sound through an ingenious experiment. He set an alarm clock ringing, placed it inside a large glass jar and proceeded to remove the air from the jar using a vacuum pump. As the air was gradually removed, the sound from the alarm clock faded until it was virtually inaudible. Upon letting air back into the jar, the ticking of the clock could once again be heard. This showed that the presence of a medium – in this case, air – was essential for the transmission of sound.

In our everyday world, sound waves typically travel in straight lines from their source. However, objects in their path can affect this movement, either by reflecting or absorbing the sound. Ultimately, sound waves provide us with a fascinating aspect of the physical world, allowing us to perceive our surroundings and communicate with each other, all while displaying unique properties that set them apart from other types of waves. [19][20]


Sound Waves and their Propagation: Dispersion Phenomenon Explored

The behavior of sound waves is often thought to be uniform and linear, but this is not always the case. While it is true that sound waves typically propagate in straight lines, there are scenarios in which they can deviate from this path due to a phenomenon called dispersion. Dispersion refers to the scattering or spreading out of sound waves as they encounter different materials with varying characteristics.

Dispersion occurs due to the complex interplay between acoustic wave energy and its medium. This interaction leads to variations in the speed and direction of sound energy transmission, resulting in deviations from straight-line propagation. Depending on the extent of this dispersion, sound waves could diverge or converge, diffuse or focus, or even cancel each other out entirely.

It is essential to understand the nuances of wave propagation better as they have critical implications for fields such as material science, engineering, biology, and acoustics.

To minimize the effects of dispersion and promote superior wave directionality, one approach involves controlling the frequency response curves (FRC) generated by different speaker systems. Another technique gaining traction involves leveraging metamaterials; designing materials with tailored microstructures capable of controlling acoustic wave propagation at highly specific frequencies. Overall, it is evident that advancements in understanding sound wave dispersion will shape our ability to control acoustical flows and devise innovative solutions across various scientific domains.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do sound waves always travel in straight lines?

A: No, sound waves do not always travel in straight lines. They can be deflected or refracted by various materials and obstacles in their path.

Q: What are some environmental factors that can affect the path of sound waves?

A: Some environmental factors that can affect the path of sound waves include temperature gradients, wind direction, and atmospheric pressure.

Q: Can sound waves be reflected?

A: Yes, sound waves can be reflected off surfaces such as walls or buildings, which can cause echoes or reverberation.

Q: How does the shape of an object affect the way sound waves travel around it?

A: The shape of an object can affect the way sound waves travel around it by either reflecting or refracting the waves. The angle at which the waves collide with the object, as well as the shape and material of the object, will determine how the waves behave.

Q: Can sound waves be absorbed?

A: Yes, sound waves can be absorbed by certain materials such as foam, which can help to reduce or eliminate the sound waves in an area.

Q: What is the speed of sound waves?

A: The speed of sound waves varies depending on the medium through which they are traveling. In air, sound waves travel at approximately 343 meters per second at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.

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