Physics Lens

Pressure Nodes and Antinodes

I modified the progressive sound wave interactive into a stationary wave version.

This allows students to visualise the movement of particles about a displacement node to understand why pressure antinodes are found there.

Usually I will pose this question to students: where would a microphone pick up the loudest sound in a stationary sound wave? Invariantly, students will say it is at the antinode. When asked to clarify if it is the displacement antinode or pressure antinode, students then become uncertain.

According to Young & Geller (2007), College Physics 8th Edition, Pearson Education Inc. (pg 385), microphones and similar devices usually sense pressure variations and not displacements. In other words, the position within a stationary sound wave at which the loudest sound is picked up is at the displacement nodes which are the pressure antinodes.

For an alternative animation, check out Daniel Russell’s.

For embedding into SLS, please use the following code:

<iframe scrolling="no" title="Stationary Sound Wave (Displacement and Pressure)" src="" width="640px" height="480px" style="border:0px;"> </iframe>

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