Sound is a Mechanical Wave
- First, there is a medium that carries the disturbance from one location to another. Typically, this medium is air, though it could be any material such as water or steel. The medium is simply a series of interconnected and interacting particles.
- Second, there is an original source of the wave, some vibrating object capable of disturbing the first particle of the medium. The disturbance could be created by the vibrating vocal cords of a person, the vibrating string and soundboard of a guitar or violin, the vibrating tines of a tuning fork, or the vibrating diaphragm of a radio speaker.
- Third, the sound wave is transported from one location to another by means of particle-to-particle interaction. If the sound wave is moving through air, then as one air particle is displaced from its equilibrium position, it exerts a push or pull on its nearest neighbors, causing them to be displaced from their equilibrium position. This particle interaction continues throughout the entire medium, with each particle interacting and causing a disturbance of its nearest neighbors. Since a sound wave is a disturbance that is transported through a medium via the mechanism of particle-to-particle interaction, a sound wave is characterized as a mechanical wave.
- A ringing bell is placed in a jar and air inside the jar is evacuated. Once air is removed from the jar, the sound of the ringing bell can no longer be heard. The clapper is seen striking the bell; but the sound that it produces cannot be heard because there are no particles inside of the jar to transport the disturbance through the vacuum. Sound is a mechanical wave and cannot travel through a vacuum.
a. produced by an oscillating object and a light wave is not.
Sound is a mechanical wave and cannot travel through a vacuum. Light is an electromagnetic wave and can travel through the vacuum of outer space.