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Slowing down the speed of sound.

Slowing down the speed of sound

Forget what the handbooks say. The theoretical speed of sound in standard dry air at 0[deg.]C and at a barometric pressure of 101.325 kilopascals is actually 331.29 meters per second. For years, the value has been listed as 33.14 meters per second.

The new result, published in the May JOURNAL OF THE ACOUSTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA, is the work of George S. K. Wong of the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa. Wong painstakingly surveyed all of the available literature on sound measurement going back nearly a century. He isolated the various quantities that go into a theoretical speed-of-sound calculation and discovered that some are now known more accurately than before.

The new calculated value, says Wong, still fits within the uncertainties associated with previous experimental measurements of the speed of sound in air. Although the change means little to the average person, some microphones and other laboratory equipment may have to be recalibrated and many handbooks and textbooks revised.

Moreover, says acoustics engineer Andrew F. Seybert of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, "this further reinforces the viewpoint that we scientists shouldn't take things for granted. Once an error is made, it can perpetuate and make things harder to correct in the future."
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Title Annotation:new calculated value
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 21, 1986
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