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Speed of Sound Measured

Using Resonance

By: Ema Condori-Teves

For Mr. Hendricks Honors Physics B4 Class

In this lab, a method needed to be used that would give the most accurate measurement of sound
waves. Different tuning forks and a tube partially submerged in a larger tube filled with water
was used to measure the speed of sound. The purpose of this lab was to be able to understand and
learn how to determine the speed of sound using resonance. The average speed of sound
measured was 331 meters per second 10 meters per second.

Resonance is definitely the focus of this lab and needs to be understood first in order to be able
to apply that knowledge into measuring the speed of sound. Resonance occurs when an
oscillating system is at a frequency which is the same as its own natural frequency. In the case of
this lab, resonance applies where the sound waves that are traveling down the smaller tube
interfere constructively with the ones that bounce of the water and passes back up that tube. In
this lab the sound waves were generated by three tuning forks, each with different frequencies
that were vibrated above the smaller tube. The smaller tube was raised until it was at an effective
height where the resonance could be clearly heard. Another vital piece of information that
needed to be understood in order to successfully use the data collected and determine the speed
of sound is by understanding the equation =v/d. This derivation could be some simply
explained through the image below.

A few other definitions that will be useful to understand are as follows:

Standing wave-a vibration of a system in which some particular points remain fixed while others
between them vibrate with the maximum amplitude

Sound Waves Resonance Analysis

To measure the speed of sound, the resonance needed to be determined. This was
done by using two tubes, a larger tube that was filled with water, and a smaller one
that was partially submerged in that water. A tuning fork was held above the smaller tube
and the tuning fork was set to vibrate by striking it to vibrate. The frequency of the tuning
fork used was noted beforehand (the frequency of the fork can be was found written on
each fork). The standing wave that will result from this will resonate more loudly when the tube
is held at an effective distance where antinode is at the top of the tube. The distance from the top
of the water and the top of the smaller tube is then taken. This is measured twice, once from the
shorter distance possible to measure when it will resonate, which will be the first harmonic, and
the second from the next distance at which it will resonate which will be the second harmonic.
The difference between these will give you the distance from one antinode to the next which was
referred to as the spacing of the nodes. That is only half the wavelength, below in the image
shown portrays as to why this is true, this number will need to be doubled to equal the
wavelength. Also it is important that these units are in standard physics units, so the measured
distance must be noted in meters. The speed of sound can be determined using the equation

This trial was done a total of three times with tuning forks of different frequencies to get a
variety of results to compare from and average so that the measurements could be most accurate.
The results are as portrayed below in the data table.
Frequency of the tuning fork Wavelength *f=v

480 Hz .678 m 480Hz*.678m = 325m/s

384 Hz .890 m 384Hz*.890m = 342 m/s
427 Hz .762 m 427Hz*.762m = 325 m/s

The average velocity among these three different trials is 331 m/s 10 meters per second.

There are many variables that can affect the results of these measurements, these include a
change in the medium at which these measurements are taken from. Some of the variables that
can change the medium of the air include the temperature of the air or even the air pressure. The
frequencies used should dont affect the results no matter these changes in the medium at which
these measurements are taken from. In the physics book that is used for this class, it states that
the speed of sound is at 342 meters per second, but these results were taken from sea level
(which also include a handful of variables that can affect the medium at which the measurement
was taken). The measurements in this lab were taken in a here in a region where the air pressure
a lot higher, which is why the result of this lab can vary 10 units either way depending on the