10
$\begingroup$

As the title states I have a scene in my book where two ships collide in space. What I want to know is would the passengers hear the sound from inside the ship. (the ship’s hull did not breach but it was a very hard hit) I know that the vacuum of space stops sound but if the ship has air therefore a way for noise to be heard would it. The collision happened outside so I'm a bit torn to what would happen

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I really hate the idea that you can't hear sounds in a space ship. If you're designing a space ship and something explodes in close proximity to the ship. Would you not have sensors interpret the light pattern of an explosion and pump it throughout the ship so crew members having dinner don't need to run to a monitor and replay events to see how far away and how big the detonation was? $\endgroup$ – Mikey Mouse Mar 23 '18 at 10:25
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as being not about worldbuilding. You aren't trying to build anything, merely understand how a real, physical phenomenon functions in our very real world (universe?). As such, this topic is more appropriate on the Physics SE than here. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 23 '18 at 12:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MikeyMouse But light and sound aren't the same thing. You could have a very loud noise that's not accompanied by any light, and you can also have very bright light without any accompanying sound. I don't think there's any way to reliably derive a sound pattern from a light pattern. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Mar 23 '18 at 12:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @CreedArcon I just checked the front page; all of the open questions there are about worldbuilding. You've asked, "How do sound and space work?" This is not a worldbuilding topic; it's a science topic. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 23 '18 at 15:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This feels like the edit was done in bad faith. Ya think? - The edit is a well-deserved snarky response to a really infuriating criticism. - The "World" in "WorldbuildingSE" does not denote just magical forests and distant planets. It means the world in which a story is set. Questions about unfamiliar story settings are on topic for this site, even if, in theory, the setting probably exists somewhere. $\endgroup$ – A. I. Breveleri Mar 24 '18 at 9:56
47
$\begingroup$

Absolutely.

If there is a medium to transmit vibration such as a ship hull into the atmosphere inside, any people aboard would definitely hear the sound. Sound is just a vibration through matter, be it solid steel, water, or air. If a ship's hull is impacted, it would transmit that sound to the air inside.

All that's required is physical contact. In the same way, two astronauts in space would be able to speak to each other without radio if they touched their helmets together.

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Yes, you would hear them tapping. Say they tap on a window: the window will vibrate from their tapping, that vibration will vibrate the air on the other side in exactly the same way a speaker vibrates the air when it moves. Vibrating air is better known as sound. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Mar 23 '18 at 3:08
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ I think its plausible that a tapping on the window might be too quiet to hear, between the thick windows and the soft layers of fabric over the knucles of the astronaut, but there would certainly be a sound. A collision is a... less than subtle knock. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Mar 23 '18 at 4:07
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Christoph It's actually quadruple glazed. Only the middle two layers are pressurised - the layers either side are purely for protection. Double-glazing doesn't keep out all sound though, because the vibrations still come through the frame. Anyone who's had a bird fly into a window can testify to that impact noise coming through loud and clear. $\endgroup$ – Graham Mar 23 '18 at 11:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @CreedArcon Perhaps worth pointing out that if a passenger inside tapped on the window, an astronaut outside would not hear them, because there's no medium between the window and the astronaut to transmit the sound. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Mar 23 '18 at 12:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Neil it’s very realistic ships HAVE collided in space present day there's a video that @DarkDust has shown us on his own question. And I never said that the ships were not damaged I just said the hull was not breached $\endgroup$ – Creed Arcon Mar 23 '18 at 15:02
7
$\begingroup$

As @Samuel already explained, you can hear collisions if the inside is pressurized. The vibrations of the contact are transmitted through the hull to the air and this in turn to your ears.

As a real-life example, astronauts inside ISS can hear their colleagues doing EVAs. The astronauts inside can hear the outside astronauts moving along the hull and noises generated when they use tools (with direct contact to the hull), for example. Astronauts inside ISS can even hear the impact of micro-meteoroids.

An astronaut in a space-suit (which is a very tiny spacecraft, in a sense) is also able to hear noises via direct contact. In some movies this is used to have two astronauts with failed communication devices talk to each other by having their helmets touch and speak. This should indeed work: your voice vibrates the air which vibrates your helmet which then vibrates the other guys helmet and air inside it. A bit like a tin-can telephone.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ indeed, would the sound be like you are under water or like a sound you hear be-hide a wall $\endgroup$ – Creed Arcon Mar 23 '18 at 9:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure about this, I assume the sound would be like if you are inside a tin-can on earth & someone makes contact-noises with the hull. The hull's vibration isn't dampened like it would be under water and the sound distribution inside is the same as on earth. By the way, in ISS, there's a lot of background noise due to fans and other machinery in most parts (just watch one of those videos where astronauts show a tour of the ISS). $\endgroup$ – DarkDust Mar 23 '18 at 10:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Another thing you might want to research are interviews with cosmonauts that were aboard during the Mir-Progress collision. That is an actual collision of two space crafts with people inside. $\endgroup$ – DarkDust Mar 23 '18 at 10:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Found a video where the astronauts/cosmonauts talk about the collision. $\endgroup$ – DarkDust Mar 23 '18 at 10:32
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It would probably be amazingly loud too considering that the entire hull would reverberate making every surface of the ship, inside and out, into a giant speaker (Unless internal bulkheads were specifically designed to isolate external vibrations like engine noise in which case it would just be Very Loud. $\endgroup$ – Bill K Mar 23 '18 at 16:04
3
$\begingroup$

If you have ever been in a fender bender, you'll know that it is loud. Outside the car, people hear a little bang. When you're inside the car, all of the metal of the frame and body shakes from the impact and you know that you've been hit.

Your passengers will hear the collision. The may not be able to hear anything else.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

The collision happened outside but the vibrations are happening inside the ship. The sound would travel through the air in your ship. Passengers would hear it.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.