What Is Acoustics?

Acoustics is the science which studies mechanical waves (colloquially termed as sound) present in gases, solids or liquids. The name comes from the Greek language word which means ‘ready to hear’. Acoustics is primarily applied in designing lecture rooms, cinema halls, theaters etc. Let’s see how it works taking the example of cinema halls. It is important to make sure that everyone in a cinema hall hears the dialogues in the movie well, irrespective of the position of his/her seat. It is also necessary to ensure that the persons sitting in the front rows don’t have to put their hands on their ears to avoid their ear drums from bursting due to excessive volume of the sound. Here arises the need for the people who specialize in acoustics.

A number of books by European and American musicologists credit the famous Greek philosopher Pythagoras as the first person to study acoustics. It is, however, an established fact that the Chinese were already studying acoustics since around 3000 BC. A Roman architect, engineer and writer, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, wrote a whole book on the science of acoustics. It can be regarded as the beginning of architectural acoustics.
Then Europe witnessed a scientific revolution during Renaissance. An Italian scientist, Galileo Galilei and a French theologian, le Père Mersenne studied matter waves. Around 1630s the speed of sound waves was measured experimentally. Some sections in the book ‘Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica’, by Sir Isaac Newton, are regarded as the cornerstone of physical acoustics. Helmholtz, a German scientist developed psychological acoustics. Lord Rayleigh’s book ‘The Theory of Sound’ is also a monumental work in the field. The work of silent exhaust pipes, gun silencers etc are also studied under acoustics.

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Generalist. ex-Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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