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Earthquake waves under Earth’s surface also have both longitudinal and transverse components (called compressional or P-waves and shear or S-waves, respectively). These components have important individual characteristics—they propagate at different speeds, for example. Earthquakes also have surface waves that are similar to surface waves on water.

Why is it important to differentiate between longitudinal and transverse waves?

In the different types of waves, energy can propagate in a different direction relative to the motion of the wave. This is important to understand how different types of waves affect the materials around them.

Phet explorations: wave on a string

Watch a string vibrate in slow motion. Wiggle the end of the string and make waves, or adjust the frequency and amplitude of an oscillator. Adjust the damping and tension. The end can be fixed, loose, or open.

Wave on a String

Section summary

  • A wave is a disturbance that moves from the point of creation with a wave velocity v w size 12{v rSub { size 8{w} } } {} .
  • A wave has a wavelength λ size 12{λ} {} , which is the distance between adjacent identical parts of the wave.
  • Wave velocity and wavelength are related to the wave’s frequency and period by v w = λ T size 12{v size 8{w}= { {λ} over {T} } } {} or v w = . size 12{v size 8{w}=fλ} {}
  • A transverse wave has a disturbance perpendicular to its direction of propagation, whereas a longitudinal wave has a disturbance parallel to its direction of propagation.

Conceptual questions

Give one example of a transverse wave and another of a longitudinal wave, being careful to note the relative directions of the disturbance and wave propagation in each.

What is the difference between propagation speed and the frequency of a wave? Does one or both affect wavelength? If so, how?


Storms in the South Pacific can create waves that travel all the way to the California coast, which are 12,000 km away. How long does it take them if they travel at 15.0 m/s?

t = 9 . 26 d size 12{d= {underline {9 "." "26 d"}} } {}

Waves on a swimming pool propagate at 0.750 m/s. You splash the water at one end of the pool and observe the wave go to the opposite end, reflect, and return in 30.0 s. How far away is the other end of the pool?

Wind gusts create ripples on the ocean that have a wavelength of 5.00 cm and propagate at 2.00 m/s. What is their frequency?

f = 40 . 0 Hz size 12{v rSub { size 8{w} } = {underline {"40" "." "0 Hz"}} } {}

How many times a minute does a boat bob up and down on ocean waves that have a wavelength of 40.0 m and a propagation speed of 5.00 m/s?

Scouts at a camp shake the rope bridge they have just crossed and observe the wave crests to be 8.00 m apart. If they shake it the bridge twice per second, what is the propagation speed of the waves?

v w = 16 . 0 m/s size 12{v rSub { size 8{w} } = {underline {"16" "." "0 m/s"}} } {}

What is the wavelength of the waves you create in a swimming pool if you splash your hand at a rate of 2.00 Hz and the waves propagate at 0.800 m/s?

What is the wavelength of an earthquake that shakes you with a frequency of 10.0 Hz and gets to another city 84.0 km away in 12.0 s?

λ = 700 m size 12{λ="700"`m} {}

Radio waves transmitted through space at 3 . 00 × 10 8 m/s size 12{3 "." "00" times "10" rSup { size 8{8} } "m/s"} {} by the Voyager spacecraft have a wavelength of 0.120 m. What is their frequency?

Your ear is capable of differentiating sounds that arrive at the ear just 1.00 ms apart. What is the minimum distance between two speakers that produce sounds that arrive at noticeably different times on a day when the speed of sound is 340 m/s?

d = 34 . 0 cm size 12{d= {underline {"34" "." "0 cm"}} } {}

(a) Seismographs measure the arrival times of earthquakes with a precision of 0.100 s. To get the distance to the epicenter of the quake, they compare the arrival times of S- and P-waves, which travel at different speeds. [link] ) If S- and P-waves travel at 4.00 and 7.20 km/s, respectively, in the region considered, how precisely can the distance to the source of the earthquake be determined? (b) Seismic waves from underground detonations of nuclear bombs can be used to locate the test site and detect violations of test bans. Discuss whether your answer to (a) implies a serious limit to such detection. (Note also that the uncertainty is greater if there is an uncertainty in the propagation speeds of the S- and P-waves.)

The figure shows a seismograph put on a wooden table. Its top is labeled as “Hands off glass, please”. Below it there are some buttons are shown and a paper roller is fitted in the seismograph to print the observation by the machine. On the right and left of the roller, two vertical cable slots are given.
A seismograph as described in above problem.(credit: Oleg Alexandrov)

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, General physics ii phy2202ca. OpenStax CNX. Jul 05, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11538/1.2
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