This Is Not a Shockwave

This Is Not a Shockwave

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Writer/Narrator: Brian McManus
Editor: Dylan Hennessy (
Animator: Mike Ridolfi (
Sound: Graham Haerther (
Thumbnail: Simon Buckmaster


Select imagery/video supplied by Getty Images
Thank you to AP Archive for access to their archival footage.

Music by Epidemic Sound:


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  1. Physicist here. Cherenkov radiation is produced when a charged particle is traveling at a constant speed greater than the speed of light in the medium. Since the speed of light in a medium is equal to c/n or the speed of light in a vacuum divided by the medium’s index of refraction it is possible for a particle to go faster than the speed of light in absence of collisions with the mediums nuclei and this produces a Cherenkov cone/light Shockwave

    Now for the in depth explanation of it in the micro scale, no hard feelings if it is too much to read.

    A moving charge creates a magnetic field, a changing magnetic field creates an electric field, and EM fields propagate at the speed of light. So, for a charged particle traveling through a homogeneous medium at a linear

    trajectory with a speed less than the speed of light in the medium, the particle will polarize all atoms it passes with the energy being returned to the passing particle when the atoms return to their normal state in accordance to

    Newton's 2nd law. This giving off and returning of energy to the particle causes a constant deceleration and acceleration to occur which won't allow for the formation of Cherenkov radiation. However, if the particle is traveling at a speed greater than the speed of light of the medium the atoms of the medium are unable to return the energy to the particle thus emitting it as radiation (which often falls into the frequency of blue light) creating a light shockwave. This suggests that Cherenkov radiation does cause the charged particle to slowly decelerate in order to follow the law of conservation of energy, but any fluctuation in velocity causes a decrease in intensity suggesting that Cherenkov radiation needs a uniformly moving particle. The deceleration however is the result of long-range forces only so it's easy to assume that the velocity is constant given how small the deceleration will be from the energy lost in the polarization of atoms and in any real-world scenario it is not feasible to assume the incident particle will travel for a long duration

    without close range collisions with medium atoms that lead to far greater deceleration.

  2. It's the same principal as an air conditioner, I think. The air in front of the airplane is compressed which makes it hot, and then as it passes behind the airplane it rapidly expands, which makes it cold and forces the water vapor out of suspension.

  3. Good stuff, but it always irritates me when people describe a shock wave as a "pile up of sound waves". It isn't. It's a sudden change in pressure. You do not need to have sound vibrations involved to make a shock – in fact, you normally do not have any sort of "sound" involved. It's just air that can't get out of its own way… not an oscillating pressure wave… just a steady pressure wave.

  4. Why this condensation does not continue to appear in supersonic speeds ? It only appears while crossing sonic speed. The compression and expansion waves continue to exist and are even stronger at higher speeds !

  5. you know what, i pay 12.99 a month for neflix and there is just total garbage on that these days, amazon prime is only slightly better but disney is total ass unless your a die hard marvel bellend. i wish i knew about curiosity stream sooner

  6. Does anyone know the difference between an introverted engineer and an extroverted one? An introverted engineer looks at his shoes when he talks to you. But, an extroverted engineer looks at your shoes when he talks to you.

  7. Is it really the temperature that affects the propagation of the soundwave or is it the effect on density that temperature has on atmospheric air? If you had a constant volume container full of air (or other fluid); heated it increasing pressure, not volume; this would mean mass/volume would remain the same; would the pressure wave change its propagation rate? If so why? Just a curious question.

  8. I don’t understand the space shuttle example. It looks like the expansion fan is occurring at the tips of the boosters and shuttle. I would think those parts would be in the “compression zone”

  9. Why tf would you put the FTL electron stuff behind a paywall ffs not cool man very scummy in my opinion along with the misleading statement to Bait people into buying your service

  10. BOOM, A Clarification, the jet has entered the "Sound Barrier" as indicated by the Supersonic Flow of the Vapor Cone, where water condenses across Supersonic Expansion Waves and evaporates across the Wake Shockwave, BOOM. The second BOOM of the classic boom-BOOM forms first as the "Sound Barrier" is entered. The back half of the aircraft is flying in the Supersonic Bubble of the Sound Barrier. So, there actually is a BOOM that is finite, flat, circular, and grows to infinity at Mach 1, when the first boom forms. boom-BOOM.

  11. Thank you! I’ve been telling people for years that these hundreds of phots were not all taken “just at the moment when the plane breaks the sound barrier” as captions insist. I kept insisting on water and mentioning ionization chambers, but nobody listens

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