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backwards and forwards in equal times, like a pendulum, to a less and less extent, till the resistance of the air puts a stop to the motion. These vibrations are the same for every individual ear of corn. Yet, as their oscillations do not all commence at the same time, but successively, the ears will have a variety of positions at any one instant. Some of the advancing ears will meet others in their returning vibrations, and, as the times of oscillation are equal for all, they will be crowded together at regular intervals. Between these there will occur equal spaces where the ears will be few, in consequence of being bent in opposite directions; and at other equal intervals they will be in their natural upright positions. So that over the whole field there will be a regular series of condensations and rarefactions among the ears of corn, separated by equal intervals, where they will be in their natural state of density. In consequence of these changes the field will be marked by an alternation of bright and dark bands. Thus the successive waves which fly over the corn with the speed of the wind are totally distinct from, and entirely independent of the extent of the oscillations of each individual ear, though both take place in the same direction. The length of a wave is equal to the space between two ears precisely in the same state of motion, or which are moving similarly, and the time of the vibration of each ear is equal to that which elapses between the arrival of two successive waves at the same point. The only difference between the undulations of a corn-field and those of the air which produce sound is, that each ear of corn is şet in motion by an external cause, and is uninfluenced by the motion of the rest; whereas in air, which is a compressible and elastic fluid, when one particle begins to oscillate, it communicates its vibrations to the surrounding particles, which transmit them to those adjacent, and so on continually. Hence from the successive vibrations of the particles of air the same regular condensations and rarefactions take place as in the field of corn, producing waves throughout the whole mass of air, though each molecule like each individual ear of corn never moves far from its state of rest. The small waves of a liquid, and the undulations of the air, like waves in the corn, are evidently not real masses moving in the direction in which they are advancing, but merely outlines, motions, or forms passing along, and comprehending all the particles of an undulating fluid which are at once in a
vibratory state. It is thus that an impulse given to any one point of the atmosphere is successively propagated in all directions, in a wave diverging as from the centre of a sphere to greater and greater distances, but with decreasing intensity, in consequence of the increasing number of particles of inert matter which the force has to move; like the waves formed in still water by a falling stone, which are propagated circularly all around the centre of disturbance (N. 160).
The intensity of sound depends upon the violence and extent of the initial vibrations of air; but, whatever they may be, each undulation when once formed can only be transmitted straight forwards, and never returns back again unless when reflected by an opposing obstacle. The vibrations of the aërial molecules are always extremely small, whereas the waves of sound vary from a few inches to several feet. The various musical instruments, the human voice and that of animals, the singing of birds, the hum of insects, the roar of the cataract, the whistling of the wind, and the other nameless peculiarities of sound, show at once an infinite variety in the modes of aërial vibration, and the astonishing acuteness and delicacy of the ear, thus capable of appreciating the minutest differences in the laws of molecular oscillation.
All mere noises are occasioned by irregular impulses communicated to the ear; and, if they be short, sudden, and repeated beyond a certain degree of quickness, the ear loses the intervals of silence, and the sound appears continuous. Still such sounds will be mere noise: in order to produce a musical sound, the impulses, and consequently the undulations of the air, must be all exactly similar in duration and intensity, and must recur after exactly equal intervals of time. If a blow be given to the nearest of a series of broad, flat, and equidistant palisades, set edgewise in a line direct from the ear, each palisade will repeat or echo the sound; and these echoes, returning to the ear at successive equal intervals of time, will produce a musical note. The quality of a musical note depends upon the abruptness, and its intensity upon the violence and extent of the original impulse. In the theory of harmony the only property of sound taken into consideration is the pitch, which varies with the rapidity of the vibrations. The grave or low tones are produced by very slow vibrations, which increase in frequency as the note becomes more
acute. The lowest man's voice makes 896 vibrations in a second, whilst the highest woman's voice makes 2112. Very deep tones are not heard by all alike, and Dr. Wollaston, who made a variety of experiments on the sense of hearing, found that many people, though not at all deaf, are quite insensible to the cry of the bat or the cricket, while to others it is painfully shrill. From his experiments he concluded that human hearing is limited to about nine octaves; extending from the lowest note of the organ to the highest known cry of insects; and he observes with his usual originality that, as there is nothing in the nature of the atmosphere to prevent the existence of vibrations incomparably more frequent than any of which we are conscious, we may imaginė that animals like the Grylli, whose powers appear to commence nearly where ours terminate, may have the faculty of hearing still sharper sounds which we do not know to exist, and that there may be other insects hearing nothing in common with us, but endowed with a power of exciting, and a sense which perceives vibrations, of the same nature indeed as those which constitute our ordinary sounds, but so remote that the animals which perceive them may be said to possess another sense, agreeing with our own solely in the medium by which it is excited."
M. Savart, so well known for the number and beauty of his researches in acoustics, has proved that a high note of a given intensity, being heard by some ears and not by others, must not be attributed to its pitch, but to its feebleness. His experiments, and those more recently made by Professor Wheatstone, show that, if the pulses could be rendered sufficiently powerful, it would be difficult to fix a limit to human hearing at either end of the scale. M. Savart had a wheel made about nine inches in diameter with 360 teeth set at equal distances round its rim, so that while in motion each tooth successively hit on a piece of card. The tone increased in pitch with the rapidity of the rotation, and was very pure when the number of strokes did not exceed three or four thousand in a second, but beyond that it became feeble and indistinct. With a wheel of a larger size a much higher tone could be obtained, because, the teeth being wider apart, the blows were more intense and more separated from one another. With 720 teeth on a wheel thirty-two inches in diameter, the sound produced by 12,000 strokes in a second was audible, which corresponds to 24,000 vibrations of a musical
chord. So that the human ear can appreciate a sound which only lasts the 24,000th part of a second. This note was distinctly heard by M. Savart and by several people who were present, which convinced him that with another apparatus still more acute sounds might be rendered audible.
For the deep tones M. Savart employed a bar of iron, two feet eight inches long, about two inches broad, and half an inch in thickness, which revolved about its centre as if its arms were the spokes of a wheel. When such a machine rotates, it impresses a motion on the air similar to its own, and, when a thin board or card is brought close to its extremities, the current of air is momentarily interrupted at the instant each arm of the bar passes before the card; it is compressed above the card and dilated below; but the instant the spoke has passed a rush of air to restore equilibrium makes a kind of explosion, and, when these succeed each other rapidly, a musical note is produced of a pitch proportional to the velocity of the revolution. When M. Savart turned this bar slowly, a succession of single beats was heard; as the velocity became greater, the sound was only a rattle; but, as soon as it was sufficient to give eight beats in a second, a very deep musical note was distinctly audible corresponding to sixteen single vibrations in a second, which is the lowest that has hitherto been produced. When the velocity of the bar was much increased, the intensity of the sound was hardly bearable. The spokes of a revolving wheel produce the sensation of sound, on the very same principle that a burning stick whirled round gives the impression of a luminous circle. The vibrations excited in the organ of hearing by one beat have not ceased before another impulse is given. Indeed it is indispensable that the impressions made upon the auditory nerves should encroach upon each other in order to produce a full and continued note. On the whole, M. Savart has come to the conclusion, that the most acute sounds would be heard with as much ease as those of a lower pitch, if the duration of the sensation produced by each pulse could be diminished proportionally to the augmentation of the number of pulses in a given time: and on the contrary, if the duration of the sensation produced by each pulse could be increased in proportion to their number in a given time, that the deepest tones would be as audible as any of the others.
The velocity of sound is uniform and independent of the
nature, extent, and intensity of the primitive disturbance. Consequently sounds of every quality and pitch travel with equal speed. The smallest difference in their velocity is incompatible either with harmony or melody, for notes of different pitches and intensities, sounded together at a little distance, would arrive at the ear in different times. A rapid succession of notes would in this case produce confusion and discord. But, as the rapidity with which sound is transmitted depends upon the elasticity of the medium through which it has to pass, whatever tends to increase the elasticity of the air must also accelerate the motion of sound. On that account its velocity is greater in warm than in cold weather, supposing the pressure of the atmosphere constant. In dry air, at the freezing temperature, sound travels at the rate of 1090 feet in a second, and for any higher temperature one foot must be added for every degree of the thermometer. above 320: hence at 62° of Fahrenheit its speed in a second is 1120 feet, or 765 miles an hour, which is about three-fourths of the diurnal velocity of the earth's equator. Since all the phenomena of the transmission of sound are simple consequences of the physical properties of the air, they have been predicted and computed rigorously by the laws of mechanics. It was found, however, that the velocity of sound, determined by observation, exceeded what it ought to have been theoretically by 173 feet, or about one-sixth of the whole amount. La Place suggested that this discrepancy might arise from the increased elasticity of the air in consequence of a development of latent or absorbed heat (N. 178) during the undulations of sound, and calculation confirmed the accuracy of his views. The aërial molecules being suddenly compressed give out their absorbed heat; and, as air is too bad a conductor to carry it rapidly off, it occasions a momentary and local rise of temperature, which, increasing the elasticity of the air without at the same time increasing its inertia, causes the movement to be propagated more rapidly. Analysis gives the true velocity of sound in terms of the elevation of temperature that a mass of air is capable of communicating to itself, by the disengagement of its own absorbed heat when suddenly compressed in a given ratio. This change of temperature however could not be obtained directly by any experiments which had been made at that epoch; but by inverting the problem, and assuming the velocity of sound as given by