Does a radio wave travel faster than an acoustical one?Describe the differences?
Yes. Radio waves are light, going at 186,000 miles per second. Sound waves go at 343 meters per second. Light are photons, with wave-particle duality. Sound is matter vibrating as waves. Light cannot go through solids. Sound goes faster through solids. Light can go through a vacuum (and that's it's fastest), while sound cannot.
There are several differences between accoustical waves and radio waves
1) Radio waves are electromagnetic waves. This means that they exist due to an oscillating magnetic and electric wave. Light and X-rays are also electromagnetic waves. In vacuum and in air all forms of electromagnetic radiation including radio waves travel at 300000000 metres per second. They do not need matter to propogate (i.e. they can travel through a vacuum). In materials radio waves propogate slower than when in air.
Radio waves are transverse waves (like all electromagnetic radiation). This means that the oscillating electric and magnetic fields are perpendicular to the direction of motion of the wave.
2) Accoustical waves are mechanical waves arising from motion of atoms or molecules. In air accoustical waves travel at about 343 metres per second. Accoustical waves need matter to propogate i.e. they cannot travel in a vacuum. In materials accoustical waves propogate faster than when in air. For example in steel accoustical waves travel at about 6000 metres per second and in water at 1500 metres per second.
Accoustical waves in gases (such as air) are longitudinal waves (compare with radio waves which are transverse waves). This means that the vibrating molecules are oscillating parallel to the direction of the wave. In solids and liquids the accoustical waves can have a component which is transverse too.
Anyway to answer your question in air radio waves travel much faster than accoustical waves (300000000 metres per second compared to 343 metres per second). Even in materials although radio waves slow down and accoustical waves speed the radio waves should still be faster. There have been claims, however, that in certain circumstances sound can travel faster than the speed of light (which is the same as the speed of radio waves). I must emphasise that nothing, including sound, can travel faster than the speed of light in vacuum.
I hope this is helpful. Thanks for your question.
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