Science Questions

Sun, 21st May 2006

Part of the show New Planets, Harmonics and the science of Sound.


David in Ipswich asked:

Could sound waves be heard on Mars?


There are two questions here. One is if we had a very loud screaming baby on the Earth, would somebody on Mars in theory hear the baby screaming, or would you need to have some interplanetary baby monitor? The answer is no, you wouldn't be able to hear the sound from Earth on Mars because the space in between Earth and Mars is a vacuum. There's a wonderful experiment you can do where you put an alarm clock under a bell jar and you start a vacuum pump going. You then stop hearing the bell even though the bell is still going. But then the question is, well what if your baby was in the bedroom in your Mars planetary home? Would you be able to hear the baby crying from downstairs in your bedsit? The answer would depend very much on the atmosphere on Mars and my understanding is that there's not very much atmosphere: about 1% of the atmosphere on Earth, so it's getting close to a vacuum. So there are two things: the amount of energy that you can pump into the atmosphere is less; and also the speed of sound would be a lot faster.


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