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Speed of Sound Lab

Speed of Sound in Air Lab


In this activity you will be looking at the relationship between the distance you are from an explosion and the time it takes the sound to arrive from the explosion.


Part 1:  Arrival Time vs. Distance (Work in the Hot Desert for all of Part 1)

  1. Open the simulation found here in a new tab.

  2. Put headphones in your computer, phone or tablet and turn the volume down to a very moderate setting.  Click on the begin button to make hear the sound you will be listening for in this lab.  If the volume of the sound is too soft, raise the volume a bit.

  3. Look for the small black dot on the testing range.  This will be your explosive device.  The x at the bottom of the screen will represent your location.  You can click on the move button to change to a new random spot for your explosive device.

  4. Make a data table that gives 8 rows for 8 different spots.  For each spot have 4 columns for time (three trials at each distance and one column for the average time).

  5. Once you have your first explosive spot, click on the the start button in order to view the testing area as the observer.

  6. Use the detonation device at the bottom right to set off your explosive.  A millisecond timer will start counting off time.  When the sound arrives at your spot you need to stop the stopwatch and record the time it took the sound to arrive at your spot.

  7. Reset the explosive and repeat two more times without changing the placement of the explosive.

  8. Average your times for the three trials at this location.

  9. Hit the placement button to move back to the placement screen.  Move the explosive to a new spot and collect data for this new spot.  

  10. Continue doing this until you have collected data for 8 unique distances.

  11. Create a graph of distance (in meters)  vs. time (seconds) (this is reverse of the normal way we would graph lab data, but it will be helpful later).  Copy the graph into your lab book and make sure you have all the things a good graph should contain.  My graphing program is found here.

Part 2:  Speed of Sound based on temperature.

  1. Click on the name of the environment on your observation screen to change to a new environment.

  2. Repeat the steps from part one.  If you are pressed for time, you can collect data at fewer spots or without doing multiple trials, but be aware your results will most likely suffer if you need to do this.

  3. Graph your new data and find the slope in this new environment.

  4. Answer the questions found here.
Part 3:  Live Experiment

  1. This part of the lab you will be doing in real life

  2. Here is a quick overview of how you will be collecting data for this lab

    Collecting Data

  3. Here is a quick overview of how you will be extracting data from your graphs

    Extracting Data

  4. Create a graph of distance on y (even though we changed distance) and time on the x.  The slope of this graph will be the speed of sound in air.

Things to have in your lab book:

  • Purpose

  • A data table for all three parts of the lab

  • Graphs and equations for all three parts

  • A sentence talking about what you learned in the lab

  • An analysis of the errors that occurred in your lab and how they can be minimized.