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How acoustics detected artillery in WWI

via the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) EurekaAlert! web site

During World War I, William Lawrence Bragg led a team of engineers in the development of an acoustic method to locate enemy artillery, work that was so successful that it was soon used widely throughout the British army.

Wl braggWilliam Lawrence BraggThe method, known as sound ranging, was also adopted by the U.S. Army when they joined the war, and earned Bragg a military decoration from the British armed forces.

Bragg's story will be presented at the 177th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America by ASA Fellow Dan Costley, a researcher in sound ranging with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center.

The ASA meeting runs May 13-17, at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1914, two researchers in Paris had begun working on the idea that the difference in the time that sound arrived could be used to precisely locate artillery batteries: Charles Nordmann, an astronomer, and Lucien Bull, a medical researcher who at the time was working on a method to record heart beats.

The pair had already conducted experiments in the woods near Paris, when Australian-born Bragg was shifted from his post in the British cavalry to work on the problem in 1915.

Over the next few years Bragg built a team that improved the technique until it was able to pinpoint the location of enemy guns to within 10 meters.

"It's impressive the way they innovated and solved problems," Costley said.

Some of their creative innovations included wrapping the microphone in camouflage netting to cut wind noise and turning an ammunition box into a microphone that was well-tuned to the low frequencies of the artillery explosions.

Read the entire article on the EurekaAlert! web site here:

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