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Poisson's ratio

1. n. [Geophysics]
An elastic constant that is a measure of the compressibility of material perpendicular to applied stress, or the ratio of latitudinal to longitudinal strain. This elastic constant is named for Simeon Poisson (1781 to 1840), a French mathematician. Poisson's ratio (σ) can be expressed in terms of properties that can be measured in the field, including velocities of P-waves (VP) and S-waves (VS) as shown below.

σ = ½ (VP2 − 2VS2) / (VP2VS2)

Note that if VS = 0, then Poisson's ratio equals 0.5, indicating either a fluid, because shear waves do not pass through fluids, or a material that maintains constant volume regardless of stress, also known as an ideal incompressible material. Poisson's ratio for carbonate rocks is ~0.3, for sandstones ~0.2, and greater than 0.3 for shale. The Poisson's ratio of coal is ~0.4.