Acoustics is the branch of physics that deals with mechanical waves. This study of sound waves started with observations by science's most notable minds. Fifteenth-century Italian physicist Galileo Galilei made a significant observation about the relationship between the frequency of a wave and its pitch.

French Mathematician Marin Mersenne was the first to record the speed of sound through air in 1640. The understanding of sound waves and vibrations is a strong branch of acoustics, because it covers almost all aspects of modern society, especially when it comes to hearing and communication, cornerstones of survival.


1. How Humans Hear

From the outer ear, sound enters the ear canal and drifts to the eardrum, which vibrates from the incoming waves. The three bones in the ear, malleus, incus, and stapes, receive the vibrations and amplify them before sending them off to the cochlea, a fluid-filled structure in the inner ear. The fluid inside the cochlea ripples, and the stereocilia, hair-like structures, located at different regions in the basilar membrane, pitch the sounds. The tips of the stereocilia open up and neurotransmitters create electrical signals that are passed to the auditory nerve, which transfers them to the brain for recognition.

humans hear sound waves ericsphotography / Getty Images

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