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The Nature of Sound Waves.docx

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McMaster University
Paul Faure

September 6 , 2013 Psych 3A03: Audition The Nature of Sound Waves Sound and Hearing - Sounds are all around us - Sounds arriving at a time delay - Integrating the information - When we are listening we are interested in identifying:  What is producing the sound  Source or location of sound  Is the sound moving - Different sounds from different sources combine to produce one physical stimulus (i.e. there is a complex sound field) - Able to differentiate the sources of complex sound field such as an orchestra - What are the basic physical aspects of sound  Frequency, amplitude and time - Complex sound field: sounds from different sources combine to produce one physical stimulus  Multiple frequencies combine to produce one stimulus - This differs dramatically from our two other major senses:  Vision  Touch  Only one time varying pressure wave form; only one signal for the auditory system - Nervous system processes complex sound field and decodes signals into electrochemical signal  Transduce into neural code  Neural information processing  Integration with other systems to produce appropriate behaiour - Able to decode the information from a single stimulus from sound - Auditory system is the fastest auditory system - Cochlea is receptor map which corresponds to the frequency, no one to one mapping in space What is Sound? - According to Webster’s New World Dictionary 1. a) Vibrations in air, water, etc. trait stimulate the auditory nerves and produce the sensation of hearing; b) the auditory sensation produced by such vibrations Psychological Definition of Sound - Notice that the sensation of hearing (audition) is included in almost all definitions of sound - This has an intuitive appeal - It emphasizes the psychological attributes of sound (e.g. pitch, loudness, timbre) - i.e. “sound is what we hear.: - However:  What about vibrations that can’t be heard?  Are these also sounds?  Is there a better definition, one that emphasizes the physical properties of sound? What is a Sound Wave? - Any of the longitudinal progressive vibrations of a material medium by which sounds are transmitted: Sound waves in the ideal sense are mechanical disturbances propagating in a continuous medium. Momentum and energy Physical Definition of Sound - A physical definition of sound refers to the:  Source of the event that produces the sound; and  Medium along which the sound is transmitted - When one uses a physical definition of sound:  Sound can occur even when there is no receiver or when the receiver is non-functional  Sounds exists when there is no receiver to hear it  To understand sound, then, one must describe the source of sound vibrations and the medium through which the sound propagates
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