Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/54

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44
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

these being in some degree flexible, enabled the windows to yield to pressure without much fracture of the glass. Every window in the church, front and back, was bent inward. In fact, as the sound-wave reached the church, it separated right and left, and for a moment the edifice was clasped by a girdle of intensely-compressed air, which forced all its windows inward."

Now, was this "sound-wave" of compressed air, that struck the church, a wind-storm from the place of explosion? If not, whence all this force? That there was no wind is plain from the fact no dust was raised, nor a leaf stirred from its place. We must look for another explanation.

Suppose that, in the middle of a closely-packed crowd, "room" were suddenly made by pushing back the by-standers. These, thus suddenly losing their balance, would fall back on those behind them, and these in turn on others, and so on to the outsiders. It is easy to see that each one would recover his own balance by pushing against the one behind him, and so the fall-back movement would be seen to pass like a wave through the crowd, each one passing it on as it reached him. In like manner, the push of the expanding gases, at the explosion, was transmitted to the church, the intervening air only passing the push along. If the windows of the church had been elastic, they would have swayed with the air; as it was, they were pushed in, but had no back-spring.

The impulse which struck the church struck many ears in the same way, but their drums taking up the air-push and its back-snap, sent it to the brain, where it was put down as a tremendous sound. Sound, then, is only the beating of air-waves in the ear.

Now, a sound is either a noise or a musical tone. We take a noise to be the blow of a single wave, or an irregular succession of waves striking the ear, while a tone is the sound made by the beating of the same kind of a wave, at regular intervals, in such rapid succession as to form a sound-blend in the ear akin to the spoke-blend presented to the eye by the spokes of a fast-turning wheel.

We have divided sound into noise and musical tones, and have spoken of a tone, distinguished from noise, as being a sound-blend

PSM V13 D054 Sound vibration.jpg
Fig. 1.

made in the ear by the beating of the same kind of a wave, at regular intervals, in rapid succession. Let us prove this. We will strike middle C on a piano. We get a musical tone from its string, which is set a-vibrating, as shown in Fig. 1. But how shall we determine thenum-