The sound barrier refers to something going faster than the speed of sound. Something that fast has got to be modern and extremely high tech, right? The speed of sound is 1,125 feet per second. This translates to about one mile in 5 seconds or 768 miles per hour. This speed is based on movement through the air in normal atmospheric conditions. Sound actually moves faster in liquids and solids. For the sake of this discussion, we will assume the sound is traveling through the air.
Early pilots were aware of the some of the problems associated with breaking the sound barrier. In fact, during turns and dives, the propellers of these planes could reach the speed of sound. This caused a loud buzzing sound and turbulence due to the shock waves generated by the continuous sonic booms of the blades. When anything travels through the air, like the water, it creates a series of waves in front of and behind itself. When the speed of sound is reached, the waves get in the way of each other and crash together, creating a sound like an explosion. Thunder is a common example of a sonic boom in nature. Early planes were not strong enough to withstand the turbulence created by travelling at supersonic speeds. This and other effects were the reason the term “sound barrier” was invented. There were many obstacles to overcome.
Several people claimed to reach supersonic speeds before the first official recording. The first vehicle to break the sound barrier was probably the German V-2 missile, first launched in 1942. In 1944, a speed of Mach 4 (4 times the speed of sound) was recorded for a V-2 during descent. The first man to break the sound barrier in a witnessed and recorded flight was Chuck Yeager on October, 14, 1947. He was flying an experimental Bell X-1 aircraft he had named Glamorous Glennis.
Despite these achievements, the first invention to break the sound barrier had already been in existence for thousands of years – the bullwhip. The end of a cracking bullwhip travels faster than sound and the audible crack is actually a miniature sonic boom.
Posted 3193 day ago