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    Default What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    The tips of whips go supersonic when they crack, that's where the sound comes from. The earliest whip to go supersonic was almost certainly pre-historic. Broken ropes can do likewise, but I don't want to investigate that either, because again, really pre-historic, and unknowable.

    So, what's the first man made object to achieve mach 1.000000000000001?

    I'm sort of thinking maybe a the missile from a siege engine? Certainly gunshots from WW1 rifles were mach 2+, but how early were shots from muskets and their ilk supersonic? Did anything ever fall fast enough?
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    None, obviously, since that would destroy the universe.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    As an upper bound (as I am certain it is not the first) the "tallboy" 6-ton earthquake bombs designed by Barnes Wallace and dropped during WWII broke the sound barrier. To do this they needed to be streamlined to overcome air resistance (and the tail fins were set to spin the bomb to provide gyroscopic stabilisation to prevent the shockwave from throwing them off target).

    I don't think it can be a pre-gunpowder siege weapon - lack of streamlining and lack of motice power.

    It's probably going to be something very similar to a whip, but I assume they get disqualified as being the same principle as whips.

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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Gunpowderwise the 15th century Arquebus muzzle velocity is maxed at 300m/s so just short of the speed of sound.
    The 17th century american Longrifle was consistently above the speed of sound.
    So I would guess somewhere in that range.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Khedrac View Post
    As an upper bound (as I am certain it is not the first) the "tallboy" 6-ton earthquake bombs designed by Barnes Wallace and dropped during WWII broke the sound barrier. To do this they needed to be streamlined to overcome air resistance (and the tail fins were set to spin the bomb to provide gyroscopic stabilisation to prevent the shockwave from throwing them off target).

    I don't think it can be a pre-gunpowder siege weapon - lack of streamlining and lack of motice power.

    It's probably going to be something very similar to a whip, but I assume they get disqualified as being the same principle as whips.
    I was about to say. If a whip doesn't count, presumably something like a snapping rope wouldn't either.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    I was about to say. If a whip doesn't count, presumably something like a snapping rope wouldn't either.
    If you read the first post I mentioned snapping ropes. The "why" for excluding that is that it's almost certainly prehistoric and thus unknowable, we could talk about the entire thing not being supersonic if that seemed better, but my main objection is that we can be pretty sure it happened, it was probably an accident, and it wasn't technology.

    If a roman, greek, chinese or egyptian siege engine had some way of getting a projectile supersonic then that would count, though I don't know of any. Crossbow bolts can be fast, were they ever supersonic? Ballistas are basically supersized crossbows, did they ever achive supersonic missiles, or did they always fire bigger missiles that went slower?

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    Terrifying noise? I guess there would be screeching from the bearings, and a thump from the stops, but would it get to supersonic speeds?
    Last edited by halfeye; 2020-01-09 at 12:56 PM.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    When an inflated latex balloon bursts, it contracts at supersonic speed, contributing to the loud "pop". Balloons date back to 1824, and while I'm not certain when the first burst from overinflation, I have to imagine it didn't take all that long to make that happen.

    That's technology, and while it probably was accidental at first, people definitely popped balloons intentionally before too long.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Gas and particulates inside explosions. We had both steam and black powder explosions before the modern era, the explosions themselves are faster than sound.

    Fire sends out photons which are faster then sound, so fire is our first one. Mirrors reflect photons, and Archimedes sank at least one ship using them so that is our first faster then sound energy weapon.

    The first solids to go faster then sound were probably cannon rounds. By Napoleonic times the cannons were 100 meters per second faster then sound at muzzle, I don't know when that barrier was reached but probably the 1600s.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    A very quick search shows crossbows in the 300-400fps, longbows in the 250fps range. Most siege weapons are designed more for weight of projectile than speed, so I doubt they're going to be faster than that.
    Which is well short of the 1125fps that is the speed of sound.

    Black powder rifles easily hit 1500fps at average loads.

    Cannons I'm having a hard time figuring out real numbers, most of what I see so far are math problems, so designed to teach math rather than trying to be realistic examples (as in they all use nice round numbers). But we can probably assume that no matter what they did on average, someone decided to pack enough powder in to go faster than mach 1, even if it blew up and killed them in the process. Cannons have existed since the 12th century.

    Of course gunpowder itself is from the 9th century, and chances are they accidently made things blow up with that. And probably saltpeter before that. As well as who knows what else when they were messing with chemicals. There are also completely natural gasses and powders that will explode with flames that they could have accidently done many times.
    Even grain dust can be explosive in the right concentrations, and we've been making grain for a very long time, so it's anyone's guess as to the first time the circumstances were right for that to happen.


    If you want "on purpose" and "with some regularity" I would say gunpowder is probably a reasonable point to look at.

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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Erloas View Post
    A very quick search shows crossbows in the 300-400fps, longbows in the 250fps range. Most siege weapons are designed more for weight of projectile than speed, so I doubt they're going to be faster than that.
    Which is well short of the 1125fps that is the speed of sound.

    Black powder rifles easily hit 1500fps at average loads.

    Cannons I'm having a hard time figuring out real numbers, most of what I see so far are math problems, so designed to teach math rather than trying to be realistic examples (as in they all use nice round numbers). But we can probably assume that no matter what they did on average, someone decided to pack enough powder in to go faster than mach 1, even if it blew up and killed them in the process. Cannons have existed since the 12th century.

    Of course gunpowder itself is from the 9th century, and chances are they accidently made things blow up with that. And probably saltpeter before that. As well as who knows what else when they were messing with chemicals. There are also completely natural gasses and powders that will explode with flames that they could have accidently done many times.
    Even grain dust can be explosive in the right concentrations, and we've been making grain for a very long time, so it's anyone's guess as to the first time the circumstances were right for that to happen.


    If you want "on purpose" and "with some regularity" I would say gunpowder is probably a reasonable point to look at.
    If you don't limit it to "on purpose", then the first time was in the big bang at the start of the universe, which is sort of trivial to me.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Well, parts of fire expand at supersonic, so of you want a weapon, Greek Fire works.

    Being realistic it's either the first grenade (so from China) or the Chinese Handgonn which is a delightful shotgun on a stick
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    The big bang wasn't man made.

    There is no way to know the first time something was accidently blown up and which ones ended up causing something to go faster than mach 1.

    But even then I guess you have to consider what is "man made" at that point, as many chemicals are naturally derived or occurring but gathering them into a quantity that will explode going from natural to man-made is not any easily defined line.
    Last edited by Erloas; 2020-01-09 at 09:39 PM.

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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Erloas View Post
    The big bang wasn't man made.

    There is no way to know the first time something was accidently blown up and which ones ended up causing something to go faster than mach 1.

    But even then I guess you have to consider what is "man made" at that point, as many chemicals are naturally derived or occurring but gathering them into a quantity that will explode going from natural to man-made is not any easily defined line.
    The big bang not being man made was one of many reasons "man made" seemed like a reasonable limit to me. There are a bunch of gas clouds in space that collide faster than the speed of sound in any of them, so without the "man made" limit all of those would count too. There are other astronomic phenomena (meteors, ...), and there was apparently a natural nuclear reactor on Earth once, that barely got critical then stopped. Man made is arbitrary, but it's pretty much necessary.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Erloas View Post
    Even grain dust can be explosive in the right concentrations, and we've been making grain for a very long time, so it's anyone's guess as to the first time the circumstances were right for that to happen.
    I'm not sure if grain dust is explosive or only flammable. It's an air-breathing reaction (grain dust doesn't contain an oxidizer, so it needs to get oxygen from the air), so I don't think it can propagate faster than it can absorb oxygen, which means it's sub-sonic. I think.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    The first ever man made bomb was in East Asia in 1221 during a siege. The compression wave from the explosion is super sonic, I guess that's the first time? 800 years ago
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Torath View Post
    I'm not sure if grain dust is explosive or only flammable. It's an air-breathing reaction (grain dust doesn't contain an oxidizer, so it needs to get oxygen from the air), so I don't think it can propagate faster than it can absorb oxygen, which means it's sub-sonic. I think.
    You have to remember that in a dust or gas explosion, the fuel and air are already mixed, so no physical transport is required to mix them.

    From a technical paper linked in the Wikipedia article for detonation velocity: "For most organic dust mixtures, the measured detonation velocity is in the range of 1450-1650 m/s and the corresponding pressures in the detonation front are in the range of 15-30 bar. "

    Source (PDF link): https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article...4_1996020/_pdf
    Last edited by gomipile; 2020-01-10 at 12:01 PM.

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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by gomipile View Post
    You have to remember that in a dust or gas explosion, the fuel and air are already mixed, so no physical transport is required to mix them.

    From a technical paper linked in the Wikipedia article for detonation velocity: "For most organic dust mixtures, the measured detonation velocity is in the range of 1450-1650 m/s and the corresponding pressures in the detonation front are in the range of 15-30 bar. "

    Source (PDF link): https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article...4_1996020/_pdf
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by gomipile View Post
    You have to remember that in a dust or gas explosion, the fuel and air are already mixed, so no physical transport is required to mix them.

    From a technical paper linked in the Wikipedia article for detonation velocity: "For most organic dust mixtures, the measured detonation velocity is in the range of 1450-1650 m/s and the corresponding pressures in the detonation front are in the range of 15-30 bar. "
    I read bar as psi for a minute there, which given that a bar is 15 psi, is quite an underestimate.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Erloas View Post
    The big bang wasn't man made.

    There is no way to know the first time something was accidently blown up and which ones ended up causing something to go faster than mach 1.

    But even then I guess you have to consider what is "man made" at that point, as many chemicals are naturally derived or occurring but gathering them into a quantity that will explode going from natural to man-made is not any easily defined line.
    Yes, that's right. There are no time machines, and that was definitely a natural event. Continue about your day, citizen.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyndmyr View Post
    Yes, that's right. There are no time machines, and that was definitely a natural event. Continue about your day, citizen.
    Reasonable!Go on with our lives.

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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyndmyr View Post
    Yes, that's right. There are no time machines, and that was definitely a natural event. Continue about your day, citizen.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    And you do not in fact have clearance to even know you aren't allowed to ask this.
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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    And you do not in fact have clearance to even know you aren't allowed to ask this.
    What questions are allowed to be asked?

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    Default Re: What was the first man made thing to be supersonic (except whips)?

    Quote Originally Posted by William M. Pail View Post
    What questions are allowed to be asked?
    Not that one.

    Next.
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