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Physics/Sound - scalar or vector?.

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Question
Dear Prof Steve

Is Sound a scalar or vector?.

Thanks
Prashant

Answer
Hello Prashant,

Actually it is neither scalar nor vector. The terms scalar and vector apply to quantities. You could as well ask if taste is scalar or vector.

There are certain sound related quantities that would qualify for your question. Sound has
Frequency (or its inverse, the period)
Wavelength
Wave number
Amplitude
Sound pressure
Sound intensity
Speed of sound
All of those are scalars. You could think of the fraction of the total intensity of a sound that comes from the source to your ear. The velocity that brought that sound to your ear would have direction and therefore be a vector.

I hope this helps,
Steve

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Steve Johnson

Expertise

I would be delighted to help with questions up through the first year of college Physics. Particularly Electricity, Electronics and Newtonian Mechanics (motion, acceleration etc.). I decline questions on relativity and Atomic Physics. I also could discuss the Space Shuttle and space flight in general.

Experience

I have a BS in Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering. I am retired now. My professional career was in Electrical Engineering with considerable time spent working with accelerometers, gyroscopes and flight dynamics (Physics related topics) while working on the Space Shuttle. I gave formal classroom lessons to technical co-workers periodically over a several year period.

Education/Credentials
BS Physics, North Dakota State University
MS Electrical Engineering, North Dakota State University

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