Sound is a sequence of waves of pressure that propagates through compressible media such as air or water. (Sound can propagate through solids as well, but there are additional modes of propagation). Sound that is perceptible by humans has frequencies from about 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. In air at standard temperature and pressure, the corresponding wavelengths of sound waves range from 17 m to 17 mm. During propagation, waves can be reflected, refracted, or attenuated by the medium.
The behavior of sound propagation is generally affected by three things:
- A relationship between density and pressure. This relationship, affected by temperature, determines the speed of sound within the medium.
- The propagation is also affected by the motion of the medium itself. For example, sound moving through wind. Independent of the motion of sound through the medium, if the medium is moving, the sound is further transported.
- The viscosity of the medium also affects the motion of sound waves. It determines the rate at which sound is attenuated. For many media, such as air or water, attenuation due to viscosity is negligible.