1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Diffraction of sound

  1. Nov 8, 2011 #1
    When the wavelength is bigger than an obstacle, then the sound waves bend around the obstacle.

    so why
    I can't imagine this at all

    I read this page and watched the animations of it but it doesn't tell me the answer

    reflection of sound takes place when the difference in the speed of the sound between two media is great,while refraction takes place when the difference in the speed of the sound between two media is small

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 8, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I think you are trying to categorise things too much. Diffraction always happens, at any boundary*. It is just more noticeable for a 'small' object.

    Also, the effect of diffraction at the boundary between two 'transmissive' media will produce both a reflected wave and a refracted wave. The amount of reflection and refraction will depend on how big a change there is across the boundary and the angles involved.

    * diffraction is just the result of all the waves adding up across the whole of the wavefront. When you shine light through a pinhole the resulting shape of the wave that gets through is very rounded. When you shine it through a doorway, much more light, in total, gets through but a tiny amount also 'leaks round the sides' with a very similar pattern at the very edge (90degrees) as from a pinhole. When we discuss reflection and refraction, we are usually discussing very wide wavefronts (big apertures) so we just ignore the off-axis ('diffracted') wave because it is so insignificant compared with all the energy going in the classically defined 'ray' direction.

    But, for telescopes, for instance, we have refraction effects (focusing the image) plus diffraction effects (the ultimate blurriness of pictures of the Moon's surface etc.).
  4. Nov 8, 2011 #3
    Okay,how about my second question?

    Should I just accept this?
  5. Nov 8, 2011 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    What do you mean by that?
  6. Nov 9, 2011 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The quote in that post is not correct. You always get both reflection and refraction for non normal incidence. You continue to categorize rather than try to understand.
  7. Nov 14, 2011 #6
    Actually,I'm very confused about that
    but most of the incident rays reflect and some rays refract due to the big difference in the speed of sound between air and water.That's what I mean
    so what makes waves encounter more relection when difference in the speed of sound between air and water is big?

    Another question :


    My problem about diffraction is here
    what does we mean by "the wavelengths of sound are long enough to bend around the post"
    Thanks in advance
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Diffraction of sound
  1. Diffraction Grating (Replies: 2)

  2. Fraunhofer diffraction (Replies: 6)

  3. Diffraction Gratings (Replies: 4)