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Back to the Cone

Note that the cylindrical tube is a limiting case of a cone with its apex at infinity. Correspondingly, a plane wave is a limiting case of a spherical wave having infinite radius.

On a fundamental level, all pressure waves in 3D space are composed of spherical waves [360]. You may have learned about the Huygens-Fresnel principle in a physics class when it covered waves [297]. The Huygens-Fresnel principle states that the propagation of any wavefront can be modeled as the superposition of spherical waves emanating from all points along the wavefront [122, page 344]. This principle is especially valuable for intuitively understanding diffraction and related phenomena such as mode conversion (which happens, for example, when a plane wave in a horn hits a sharp bend or obstruction and breaks up into other kinds of waves in the horn).

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``Physical Audio Signal Processing'', by Julius O. Smith III, W3K Publishing, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9745607-2-4
Copyright © 2023-08-20 by Julius O. Smith III
Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA),   Stanford University