I am fascinated by the physics of sound at the moment. I’m always into physics, of course, but at this time, I am analyzing the nature of sound. I know it is a longitudinal, mechanical wave and that it can travel through any medium except for a vacuum (hence no sound in outer space my friends). I also know that it is a variation in pressure. For example, an area of increased pressure on a sound wave is called a compression or condensation while region of decreased pressure on a sound wave is called a rarefaction or dilation.

I’m getting into this, are you? There are various sources of sound such as vibrating solids, explosions or implosions, and smooth air flow around blunt obstacles that creates shedding vortices (having a characteristic frequency). Think of a musical instrument such as a flute, or even a whistle in which sound waves are formed.

These sound waves have amplitude (such as intensity, loudness, or volume), frequency, wavelength, and speed that reflects a certain medium and its state and is affected by elasticity and inertia. Physicists know this as the Newton-Laplace equation. So as not to enter a realm of tedium for less involved readers, I will stop here. If interested, I encourage you to google more with “physics + sound.” That’s all you need.

I go into all this because I have been plagued recently by a lot of loud noise. It is not the heavy traffic outside my office window or the occasional construction jackhammer down the street. It is not a roaring commuter train or a boat whistle nearby. My brother has been taking me to the gun range, insisting I accompany him in the performance of his new hobby. He hopes in the long run I will take up shooting permanently in the long run. It is all a matter of exposure, he says. I like being with my brother, of course, but the sound is deafening at times. At first, I was a bit stunned. You need ear protection while shoooting for sure. Trying to keep my interest intact, he has given me earmuffs made out of molded plastic as a gift. They are designed for just such a purpose as a gun range and they really do the job. I don’t mind going as much as I did before.

They fit over my head while also allowing for goggles or other headgear. He went all out and got the type that can do double duty as a phone and music listening system. Thoughtful, isn’t he. They are lightweight but sturdy and are adjustable as needed. I am pretty happy with this solution, but I felt like covering the nature of sound anyway to intrigue the reader. The subject of physics can be very abstract and theoretical and tying it to guns is my way of making it more practical and accessible. It doesn’t make the loud noise any more tolerable, however, and those earplugs are always on my person when visiting the range.