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Current Affairs

Upper limit for speed of sound

Date: 15 October 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London have recently been able to discover the upper limit of the speed of sound.

 

Background

It is extremely hard to determine the true speed of sound as its speed changes based upon the elements it is passing through like air or water.

 

Details

  • Sound is a mechanical wave, which is caused by a vibration in a medium. As the wave travels through the medium, that medium's molecules collide with each other, transferring energy as they go.

  • In a rigid solid, like a diamond, sound can travel even faster. We leverage this property to study the inside of Earth when sound waves from earthquakes travel through it. We can even use it to understand the interiors of stars.

  • The study has been able to determine the fastest speed at which sound can travel regardless of the medium it is travelling through.

  • Einstein's Theory of relativity states that the absolute limit at which sound-waves can travel is that on the speed of light, which is roughly 300,000 km per second.

  • But before this, it was not known whether sound-waves had an upper limit to their speed when it came to travelling through solids, liquids, and/or gases.

  • These two constants have multiple other uses in the realm of science as well, such as proton decay and nuclear synthesis in stars.

  • In addition, these can also be used to find the ideal ‘habitable zone’ which is a belt or space near a start that hold the perfect conditions for life, not too hot and not too cold.

  • The researchers behind the study claimed that sound-waves are hugely important across multiple scientific fields and that their findings will help researchers understand the upper limits viscosity and thermal conductivity relevant for high-temperature superconductivity, quark-gluon plasma and even black hole physics.