Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Sound versus Heat
Name: Garrett
Status: student
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A


Question:
I was thinking about heat and sound. I thought about the way they vibrate and at first could not see the difference. I am guessing that heat is the vibration of an individual molecule and sound is the vibration as a whole mass. What is the difference?



Replies:
Garrett,

Your guess is pretty good, but I would like to clarify a little. "Heat" refers to the energy contained in a body due to changes in temperature, and temperature is an aggregate measure of vibrations among molecules (both intra- and inter-molecular). These vibrations are essentially random with respect to each other. Sound waves are not random movements -- they are non-random pressure waves that move through materials. Sound waves have measurable, characteristic amplitude, wavelength, and frequency. The size and time scales of sound waves' vibrations are much, much larger than thermal vibrations.

Hope this helps,

Burr Zimmerman


Hi Garrett

Heat is an electro-magnetic (E-M) wave, like a radio or TV signal. Visible light is also an E-M wave. Heat is an E-M wave in the Infra-red (IR) area of the electromagnetic spectrum. You see IR lights keeping food warm in restaurants. IR wavelengths range from 1 millimeter (mm) (one one thousandth of a meter) to 1 micrometer (um) (one one millionth of a meter). The frequencies range from 300 GigaHertz (GHz) (10 to the 9th power) to more than 10 to the 14th power Hertz. The heat in your microwave oven is generated by a magnetron that creates an electron-magnetic (radio) wave at 2.45 GHz to heat the food in the microwave oven.

Sound is a pressure wave in the air. (It is referred to as an acoustic wave) That is the air experiences places of compression and places of less compression, like a wave in a pond of water. The old experiment is to put a ringing electric bell under a glass jar then evacuate all the air out of the glass jar and you will not be able to hear the bell ringing after all of the air is pumped out.

The heat of the sun (and the light) passes through the vacuum of space to warm our planet.

To read more, check out Wikipedia at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_spectrum

Here is a whole bunch of charts:

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=electromagnetic+spectrum&um=1&ie=UTF -8&ei=XjFESreWMorYNqbc5JYB&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=577409 489

or just "Google" "Electro Magnetic spectrum".

In electric speaker systems, acoustic waves are converted to electrical "acoustic frequency" 10 Hz to 20 KiloHertz (KHz) (10 to the 3rd Power Hertz). Electrical audio systems produce signals at a high of 20 KHz because the human ear cannot hear frequencies above 20 KHz.

Good luck in your pursuit of scientific knowledge.

Sincere regards,

Mike Stewart


You are on the right track, but it is a bit more complicated. "Heat" is the random motion of molecules, whereas "sound" is the compression and rarefaction of molecules. This alteration can be in the direction of motion, or perpendicular to the direction of motion, but in either case groups of molecules move together with one another. Things get more intricate because a "detonation" is both heat and in a sense "sound" if the energy of the detonation is large enough. And the behaviour of molecules in solids, liquids, and gases is different. But that gets beyond the scope of a service like NEWTON. There are a number of websites and books on sound that presents all the details. I would refer you there.

Vince Calder



Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory