What happens if a shock wave hits you?

In addition to damaging the ears and eyes, this shock wave can also damage other internal organs, such as the spleen, liver, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. If you're unlucky enough to get shot but are lucky that they don't reach you, you might hear the sound of the bullet itself. Inertia causes supersonic bullets to move at high speed, while the gun blast decays rapidly in force, like the spherical shock wave from an explosion. In this way, the bullet inexorably preempts the burst of the decaying barrel, carrying oblique shock waves.

These shock waves produce the sensation of a sharp crackling sound as the bullet passes, followed later by the roar of the barrel. This sequence varies depending on the moment and the position of the listener with respect to the bullet's trajectory, making it very difficult to determine the direction of the shots from the perceived sounds. If a shockwave is strong enough to throw a person away, then it's strong enough to kill that person by damaging their lungs. Some explosion victims say they feel as if they were thrown because the rapid pressure changes caused by a shock wave alter the parts of the ears that control balance and orientation. However, in general, if a victim has been thrown, then that victim has not survived.

That's why real-world explosions don't leave action heroes tastefully mistreated, and shockwaves cause little tertiary damage to the living. It is enough to explode a balloon to generate a very weak shock wave from the gas that is released when the skin of the balloon breaks. In its purest form, the shock wave goes directly from zero to its maximum pressure in an instant; on a graph, it is a vertical line followed by an inclined fall downward. What Hooke described now is called the shadow graph method, and it's a simple approach that works great for visualizing shockwaves.

The Schlieren techniques and the shadow graph used to image shockwaves are vital tools for visualizing flows that have a different refractive index than the surrounding air and therefore deflect light. The loss of life caused by an explosion is usually due to fragmentation and not to the overpressure or wind that the shock wave itself produces. The acoustic velocity is proportional to the square root of the gas temperature, but each sound wave also heats the gas gradually. Images from aerial nuclear tests prior to 1963 show the shock wave breaking up entire buildings, whose debris is swept downward by the next wind.

The passage of a strong shock wave through the human body, for example, causes serious damage due to the large instantaneous change in pressure. The shock wave travels faster than the acoustic velocity of the unchanged gas in the tube; this is a supersonic phenomenon. A shock wave has no substance in itself; rather, it is an extremely thin wavefront that passes through solids, liquids and gases at high speed, like a tsunami, driven by molecular collisions at nanoscale. In addition to the current need for counterterrorism measures mentioned above, researchers now also have modern high-speed electronic cameras with which to capture transient explosive events and rapidly moving shock waves.

By applying known scaling laws to small explosions in the laboratory, researchers can simulate the effects of shock waves and fragmentation on planned buildings or transport vehicles, for example, using scale models.