“How does sound travel in things other than air?” asks Lilly(12)

Hello Molly, Science Master here. Lets’ check that we understand how sound is produced and what it is. Sound is a form of Energy ( see Science Master Special).  It is transmitted by particles hitting each other.

So what do you think? Could you hear the sound underwater?  Could you hear the sound further along the metal tube?

Lets improve the experiment by making it fairer. How could we do this?

Let us look at the particle arrangement in the air, water and metal.

The average distance between particles for a gas is 4 nanometers (1 nanometer = 10-9 meters), for a liquid it is 0.2 of a nanometer and for the solid 0.0002 of a nanometer.

So. If the first line of particles in the gas starts moving it has to travel 4 nanometers before it hits the second row. For the liquid this would be a smaller distance and for the metal it would be hardly any distance. What does that tell you about the speed of travel of sound?

Does your experiments support your thoughts? Maybe it needs to be modified? How could you modify it to really test your thoughts.

Just a thought of my own. The sound source (drum, spoon tapping, violin) gives the particles around it ENERGY. Those particles in air have to travel a long distance before they hit another particle and pass the sound on. All this time they are losing ENERGY. For the metal the particles only have to travel a little way before passing on the vibration.

(added 27/10/16)

Not sure of something Lilly…ask another question.

(Anyone reading this post who wants to ask a question or make a comment please feel free to do so)

Ujala asked questions about where Science came from.

Many thanks for the question Ujala. I hope my friends answers satisfy your curiosity. Interestingly although ‘Natural Philosophy’ and ‘Science’ were names that evolved 2500 years ago there is evidence that ancient civilizations practiced ‘science’ more than 4000 years ago in Africa where they used measurements to create maps of plots of land by the Nile – Geometry is a scientific tool.

Any reader can ask another question or leave a Comment in the Leave a Reply box below

“If a cow ate only strawberries would it’s milk taste like strawberries? was Reginalds (grade 2) question

It is amazing that a cow has four stomachs like sheep and goats. The four stomachs facilitate the process of breaking down the grass into an edible, consumable, foodstuff.  Reginald, I am sorry that I cannot suggest an experiment to test your interesting thought. Most of the strawberry you eat is organic fibre and cellulose in nature. The sugars and flavouring are quite volatile so I would imagine (don’t know) that they would not survive the four stomach processing. I am happy for you to come up with some additional information.

Ash asks “Why do we need academic learning, what is it’s purpose?’

Ash. This is a question I will try to answer without the help of my friends. It was a challenging question. This is a personal view.

I have tried to attempt academic learning for most of my life. Notice the word tried. Academic learning for me is learning things that would help me solve scientific questions. I learnt about materials and then about atoms and molecules and their properties and then about ideas on how this dictated the way in which they behaved. I then used this to help with my own ideas.

There are however lots of different forms of academic learning in all subject areas. Think of the people who are interested in history. Their learning could involve studying and interpreting lots of old and ancient texts – or modern ones. Does history help us in understanding what is happening in the world today?

Think of the engineer who would like to improve the jet engine. Look at the learning that she/he would have to do to help them solve the problems that jet engines might have.

Don’t however, in your life, avoid the other types of learning. Learning by listening, learning visually, and learning through actions are just as important.

Now and again academic learning involves tests, class test, school tests, national examination tests. They are horrible but on the other hand they help you in the steps of the academic learning that you go through.

“How do western toilets work?” was Vinay’s (10) question,

Vinay. These are the initial thoughts of my friends. I will reply later.siphon

I’m back ….. So the siphon it is. For animations on siphons go to this great animation   where you will see a true siphon in action.

The amazing thing is that initially the siphon was thought to be delivered by air pressure. Then somebody created a siphon in a vacuum. So ideas have changed. Not everything in science is ‘absolute truth’ . One of the driving forces in science development is attempting to disprove accepted laws.

Why did you want to create a blog? was Tyler’s question.


On my opening page I talk about the importance of asking questions in science. We find out about the world around us by asking questions and then trying to find answers to those questions.

We might sometimes think our question is stupid and people will laugh about it. Sometimes asking questions in a classroom seems to be a bit like acting, there you are asking the question with 30 people listening. That can be horrible for some young people and even lots of adults. This can happen…so this blog lets young people ask their science orientated question in a non-threatening way and you can be sure that it will be listened to and somehow answered by me and my team.

I ask you to look at Natalie’s question… what is a chemical? That question is so important in understanding a scientific view of the world. Well done Natalie.

Tyler – thank you for the question

Science Master