# Determine the Speed of Sound

I will go through a process that will allow you to determine the speed sound travels. This is a classic physics lab that in the past would have required lots of expensive equipment. The only expensive equipment involved here is a computer with a microphone input. Which by itself can be expensive, but most classrooms these days have at least one in the room.
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## Step 2: Record Your Sound

Stand the tube up on a hard surface or place against a wall. Hold the microphone right at the opening of the tube. Start recording in Audacity. Snap your fingers near the microphone. A weak, pathetic snap tends to work better than a strong one. Snap a few more times so that your odds of having a good one will increase.

Note, you want your hand above the microphone to get the most precise answer.

## Step 4: Zoom In Again

Now you should see two sets of peaks. If you still only see one, highlight a smaller area and zoom in again.

The first set of peaks is your snap. The second is the echo of your snap.

Highlight just the two sets of peaks and zoom again.
llanyort5 years ago
question(s) - 1)what if you wanted to measure the distance from the object(that created the sound) to the microphone that captured the sound ? 2)what if you placed two or three other microphones in the room in each corner, could you use them as well ? or would they cause any foreseeable problems in this project ? Im trying to pinpoint the distance and vector of an orignating sound. Is this possible ?
falconphysics (author)  llanyort5 years ago
I've not tried using multiple microphones with Audacity before. I'm not sure you could do that. What you could do would be to wire two mono microphones to the stereo input and record as a stereo track though.
5 years ago
thats a good idea !!! thanks.. :-)
i am still a student taking up bs physics!! just want to ask wer can f find audacity program in our computer system! pls help me tanx
5 years ago
Kiteman7 years ago
Why do people assume you need high-tech equipment to do decent science? You can calculate the speed of sound with two lumps of wood, a stopwatch and a convenient wall.
7 years ago
How long do you think you can get away with having a comment like this and no Instructable showing us how?
7 years ago
Doh! OK, I know what I'm doing with my Science Clubbers tomorrow night...
falconphysics (author)  Kiteman7 years ago
You're right, you don't need high-tech equipment to do decent science. In many cases I do very low tech labs. It all depends on what I'm trying to teach. The tech tools can often be more engaging for students, which is one of the reasons I use them. Additionally we use Audacity for some later labs and this provides a great introduction to the program.
mrmath7 years ago
Makes me wonder two things. 1) Is there anything open source can't do? :) 2) How'd they do it before the computer made it this darn easy?
7 years ago
2) answer: Two microphones one meter apart connected to an oscilloscope. Do I get another prize??
falconphysics (author)  Mister_Caipirinha7 years ago
Sure, if I win the laser cutter I'll send you not one, but two official prizes. ;)
It is also worth pointing out that the pulse comes back inverted - that first "down" peak comes back as an "up" peak - since the end of the air tube can be considered as fixed (cement has larger impedance than the air). If you can detect a reflection from the end just held up in the air it may be erect (assuming air not surrounded by the tube has a lower impedance that air in the tube). Neat!
falconphysics (author)  Mister_Caipirinha7 years ago
Give the man a prize. The wave is indeed inverted when it reflects.