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Let's say initially one of the shocks (shock 1) is ahead of the other (shock 2), but shock 2 is faster than shock 1, so eventually shock 2 will catch up to #1. What happens when they catch up? Do they become one shock?

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- Thread starter pyroknife
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Let's say initially one of the shocks (shock 1) is ahead of the other (shock 2), but shock 2 is faster than shock 1, so eventually shock 2 will catch up to #1. What happens when they catch up? Do they become one shock?

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Danger

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http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/waves/Lesson-3/Interference-of-Waves

(My apologies for the advertising.)

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CWatters

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The problem with just talking about interference is that superposition only works for linear phenomena. Shock waves are, by their very definition, nonlinear, so simple superposition does not hold like that. Instead what would happen (if I recall correctly) is that the second shock would catch the first and the two would essentially merge into a new, stronger shock. After all, the first shock had a pressure ratio of ##p_2/p_1## and the second shock would have a pressure ratio of ##p_3/p_2## when it gets close to the first shock, so right when they touch, the ratio across the combined shock would then be ##p_3/p_1##. This simply represents a stronger shock.

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