Science Questions

Why do you hear a swoosh as you drive past things?

Sat, 21st Oct 2006

Part of the show How We Hear, Echolocation and Giant Whoopee Cushions

Question

Nat via email asked:

Why is it that when you're in a car and going past a bunch of other parked cars all in a long row, you hear a swoosh for every other car you go past? Is it the gap in between the car filled with air that interacts with the turbulence made by the moving car that makes you hear this?

Answer

My best guess would be that it's quite a good guess! I have no idea. It would be some sort of turbulence effect. We're used to turbulence making noise, which is how things like recorders work. But you also get that whooshing sound from cars when you go past, or if you stand on a platform and a high speed train is going past.

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