The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Sound Barrier and the Challenges of Sonic Booms

TLDR The speed of sound is finite and varies depending on the medium it travels through. Breaking the sound barrier creates sonic booms, which can be problematic for planes flying over land, but efforts are being made to mitigate their intensity and develop aircraft that can travel faster than sound.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 The speed of sound has a finite speed, and while it's possible to travel faster than the speed of sound, there are many problems that come with it.
02:12 Sound is a wave that travels through a material medium, and its speed depends on the substance it is moving through, with sound generally moving faster through solids than liquids and faster through liquids than gases.
04:01 The speed of sound was measured at 478.4 meters per second, and over time, this measurement was refined to 331 meters per second, or 1086 feet per second, with the currently accepted measurement being 331 meters per second or 1086 feet per second.
06:14 A sonic boom is a shockwave created when an object travels through the air faster than the speed of sound, and while there had been previous instances of sonic booms, Chuck Yeager's breaking of the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 rocket aircraft was the first to be identified as a sonic boom.
08:07 Sonic booms are created by planes flying above the speed of sound, and they are actually double booms with one boom occurring when the shockwave is heard and another when the pressure returns to normal.
10:01 Sonic booms are a problem for planes flying over land as they can be extremely annoying, cause damage, and result in complaints and lawsuits, leading to restrictions and bans on sonic booms, but there are efforts to mitigate the intensity of sonic booms through aircraft design and smaller plane sizes.
12:03 The sound barrier is no longer an impossible barrier to overcome, as it has been broken by military aircraft and the Concorde, and there are efforts to develop aircraft that can dampen sonic booms and allow for faster-than-sound travel.
Categories: History Education

Browse more History