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Can the speed of sound reach the speed of light? 
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#1
Jun2110, 12:55 PM

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1. The equation given in my Physics text for the speed of sound through air at a given temperature
v = (331.5 + 0.606T) m/sec where T is degrees Celsius According to this equation, there is a theoretical temperature at which the speed of sound would reach c: 331.5 + 0.606T = c = 3.00 x 10^8 m/sec 331.5 is insignificant so: 3.00 x 10^8 m/sec = 0.606T and T = 4.95 x 10^8 degrees Celsius The temperature at the center of the Sun is about 15 million degrees (1.5 x 10^7) so this is not ridiculously high. Is this realistic, or is there a better equation for high temperatures? What would happen when this temperature is exceeded? 


#2
Jun2110, 03:10 PM

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That equation for the speed of sound as a function of temperature is only valid for a relatively small range of temperatures and under certain conditions. (Certainly not at solar interior temperatures!) I'm unable to give you a better equation for sound speed at those temperatures, but I can tell you that relativity will prohibit any sound from traveling at the speed of light.
Interesting question! 


#3
Jun2210, 05:44 PM

P: 4

Thanks for your reply! Two more questions:
1. I'm not that familiar with relativity, but doesn't that rule only apply to matter? Sound is a wave like light. It's a wave propogated by the compression and rarefaction of actual matter, I guess, so that's probably the difference. 2. How exactly do you define the speed of light? Light speed varies. While sound speeds usually speeds up in denser mediums, light is inhibited by the existence of matter. 


#4
Jun2210, 05:52 PM

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Can the speed of sound reach the speed of light?



#5
Jun2210, 05:54 PM

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Sound is a longitudinal wave, when it propagates mass moves forward and back. So as the mass can't move faster than light, sound wave can't as well.



#6
Jun2210, 05:57 PM

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#7
Jun2210, 06:12 PM

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In any case, the relativistic 'speed limit' is the speed of light in a vacuum, not the (lower) speed of light in some medium. 


#8
Jun2310, 09:14 PM

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Ok thanks. I checked up the Cerenkov radiation thing. Very interesting.



#9
Jun2410, 11:00 AM

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This link might help on the formula for the speed of sound:
http://hyperphysics.phyastr.gsu.edu...ouspe3.html#c1 A "better" formula for the speed of sound (assuming air to be an ideal gas) is [tex]\sqrt{\frac{\gamma kT}{M}} = \sqrt{\frac{\gamma P}{\rho}}[/tex] This is still based on classical physics, so this formula will also break down when the speeds and energies become relativistic. 


#10
Jun2410, 11:11 AM

P: 5

here's the caviat. I do not mean the speed of light in a vacuum. Light can be slowed. There are MULTIPLE experiments that have slowed it to 90 m/s or less... the speed of sound is 340 m/s +/ a bit. And that's just in air... it's even faster in solids Sound can NEVER reach the speed of light in a vacuum... it is as close to impossible as a thing can be. Impossible just means really REALLY difficult. The word for a thing that can not happen is "contradiction" :) 


#11
Jun2410, 11:29 AM

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#12
Jun2410, 12:37 PM

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#13
Jun2410, 12:46 PM

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