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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Mcintosh, Gordon
item Sharratt, Brenton

Submitted to: The Physics Teacher
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/31/2001
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The principle of "propagation velocity" is often taught in physics courses using electromagnetic and sound waves. Techniques to quantitatively measure wave velocity, however, are limited due to availability or cost of measuring instruments. We describe a method that allows students to assess propagation velocity by simply measuring temperature of the soil. Propagation velocity can be obtained by measuring temperature versus time at two depths in a soil profile and varies with the physical properties of the soil. The relatively low cost of temperature sensors and variation in physical properties of soils provides teachers a cost-effective method for assessing propagation velocity in the classroom.

Technical Abstract: Various thermal properties of soils accessible through fairly simple measurements are described. These properties include the insulating effect of soil, the existence of the soil temperature wave and the propagation of this wave through the soil.

Last Modified: 05/28/2017
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