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Faster Than Sound

Viewing Ideas


Before Watching

  1. How fast is the speed of sound? It depend on what temperature the air is. The generally accepted speed through air is 344 m/sec (1130 ft/sec or 758 mi/hr) at 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). To put the speed of sound in context, have students compare it to speeds with which they are familiar. Have them research speeds such as the fastest land animal, the highway speed limit, and speed records for people in cars, bikes, or on foot. How does the speed of light compare to all of these?

After Watching

  1. The pilots in this program risked their lives to help understand how an aircraft behaved as it approached the speed of sound. Have students discuss the issues surrounding risking human life in scientific experimentation from points of view of scientists, government, test pilots, and the pilots' families. Have students consider the issue during different times in history, such as in wartime.

  2. Early test pilots flew planes faster than anyone thought possible. But how do planes fly? Introduce students to some basic principles of flight in the demonstrations. (See activity page.)

Teacher's Guide
Faster Than Sound
BUY THE VIDEO PROGRAM OVERVIEW VIEWING IDEAS CLASSROOM ACTIVITY RELATED NOVA RESOURCES INTERACTIVE FOR STUDENTS