« PreviousContinue »
temperate zone, if the gale begins from the S.E. and veers by S. to W., the ship should steer to the S.E.; but, if the gale begins from the N.E., and changes through N. to N.W., the vessel should go to the N.W. In the northern part of the torrid zone, if the storm begin from the N.E., and veer through E. to S.E., the ship should steer to the N.E. ; but, if it begin from the N.W., and veer by W. to S.W., the ship should steer to the S.W., because she is in the south-western side of the storm. Since the laws of storms are reversed in the southern hemisphere, the rules for steering vessels are necessarily reversed also. A heavy swell is peculiarly characteristic of these storms. In the open sea the swell often extends many leagues beyond the range of the gale which proluced it.
Waterspouts are occasioned by small whirlwinds, which always have their origin at a great distance from that part of the sea from which the spout begins to rise, where it is generally calm. The whirl is produced by two currents of air, which, running in opposite directions, compress one another by their impetus, so that they rise in spiral eddies to the clouds. They move slowly along the surface of the sea, sometimes in vertical, and sometimes in twisted spirals, putting the sea into violent agitation as they pass, and carrying the water aloft by the force of gyration. Occasionally the eddies begin in the clouds and dip down to
Sound — Propagation of Sound illustrated by a Field of Standing Corn
Nature of Waves - · Propagation of Sound through the Atmosphere Intensity - Noises - A Musical Sound — Quality — Pitch Extent of Human Hearing — Velocity of Sound in Air, Water, and Solids — Causes of the Obstruction of Sound — Law of its Intensity Reflection of Sound Echoes — Thunder - Refraction of Sound Interference of Sounds.
A bell rung
One of the most important uses of the atmosphere is the conveyance of sound. Without the air, deathlike silence would prevail through nature, for in common with all substances it has a tendency to impart vibrations to bodies in contact with it. Therefore undulations received by the air, whether it be from a sudden impulse, such as an explosion or the vibrations of a musical chord, are propagated in every direction, and produce the sensation of sound upon the auditory nerves. under the exhausted receiver of an air-pump is inaudible, which shows that the atmosphere is really the medium of sound. In the small undulations of deep water in a calm, the vibrations of the liquid particles are made in the vertical plane, that is, up and down, or at right angles to the direction of the transmission of the waves.
But the vibrations of the particles of air which produce sound differ from these, being performed in the same direction in which the waves of sound travel. The propagatio of sound has been illustrated by a field of corn agitated by the wind. However irregular the motion of the corn may seem on a superficial view, it will be found, if the velocity of the wind be constant, that the waves are all precisely similar and equal, and that all are separated by equal intervals and move in equal times.
A sudden blast depresses each ear equally and successively in the direction of the wind, but, in consequence of the elasticity of the stalks and the force of the impulse, each ear not only rises again as soon as the pressure is removed, but bends back nearly as much in the contrary direction, and then continues to oscillate 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 set 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 putlines, 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 396 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 imagine 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
me 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