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Question: How can an orderly sound wave travel through a disorderly
medium (air - kenetic theory says is disorderly)and reach our ears
Sound is transmitted through air because the wavelength of sound [ I
remember the limits for human hearing in terms of frequency [~20 to 20,000
hertz] is much longer than the mean free path of the molecules of N2 and O2
in the air, so the sound wave "sees" air as essentially a continuous medium.
If the wavelength of the sound were of the order of the mean free path, it
would not be transmitted.
Sound (and pressure, generally) is the average behavior of a large
number of air molecules.
There are at least two aspects in transmission in a medium that should
be considered: the nature of interactions, if any, and its extent.
In the case you describe, air molecules do have small random motions and
they may also diffuse or move as a result of external influences.
However, the energy of sound that disrupts and cause to transmit sound
in air is much higher than kinetic energy of air molecules. Thus, sound
is transmitted in the random air environment. After some distance,
however, sound waves lose their energy and the sound fades away. With
proper instruments, we can show that in addition to this attenuation
(i.e., fading with distance traveled), air molecules introduce some some
noise in the sound being transmitted. The noise level is too small to be
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Update: June 2012