Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/291

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A sound-pulse consists essentially of two parts—a condensation and a rarefaction. Now, air is a very mobile fluid, and, if the shock imparted to it lack due promptness, the pulse is not produced. Consider the case of a common clock-pendulum, which oscillates to and fro, and which therefore might be expected to generate corresponding pulses in the air. When, for example, the bob moves to the right, the air to the right of it might be supposed to be condensed, while a partial vacuum might be supposed to follow the bob. As a matter of fact, we have nothing of this kind. The air-particles in front of the bob retreat so rapidly, and those behind it close so rapidly in, that no sound-pulse is formed. A tuning-fork which executes 256 complete vibrations in a second, if struck gently on a pad and held in free air, emits a scarcely audible note. It behaves to some extent like the pendulum-bob. This feebleness is due to the prompt "reciprocating flow" of the air between the incipient condensations and rarefactions, whereby the formation of sound-pulses is forestalled. Stokes, however, has taught us that this flow may be intercepted by placing the edge of a card in close proximity to one of the corners of the fork. An immediate augmentation of the sound of the fork is the consequence.

The more rapid the shock imparted to the air, the greater is the fractional part of the energy of the shock converted into wave-motion. And, as different kinds of gunpowder vary considerably in their rapidity of combustion, it may be expected that they will also vary as producers of sound. This theoretic inference is completely verified by experiment. In a series of preliminary trials conducted at Woolwich on the 4th of June, 1875, the sound-producing powers of four different kinds of powder were determined. In the order of size of grain they bear the names respectively of Fine-grain (F. G.), Large-grain (L. G.), Rifle Large-grain (R. L. G.), and Pebble-powder (P.), (Fig. 2). The charge in each case

PSM V13 D291 Fog gun powders.jpg
Fig. 2.

amounted to 4½ pounds.; four 24 pound howitzers being employed to fire the respective charges. There were eleven observers, all of whom, without a single dissentient, pronounced the sound of the fine-grain powder loudest of all. In the opinion of seven of the eleven the large-grain powder came next; seven also of the eleven placed the rifle large-grain third on the list; while they were again unanimous in pronouncing the pebble-powder the worst sound-producer. These differences