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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the basic characteristics of wave motion
  • Define the terms wavelength, amplitude, period, frequency, and wave speed
  • Explain the difference between longitudinal and transverse waves, and give examples of each type
  • List the different types of waves

We saw in Oscillations that oscillatory motion is an important type of behavior that can be used to model a wide range of physical phenomena. Oscillatory motion is also important because oscillations can generate waves, which are of fundamental importance in physics. Many of the terms and equations we studied in the chapter on oscillations apply equally well to wave motion ( [link] ).

Photograph of an ocean wave.
An ocean wave is probably the first picture that comes to mind when you hear the word “wave.” Although this breaking wave, and ocean waves in general, have apparent similarities to the basic wave characteristics we will discuss, the mechanisms driving ocean waves are highly complex and beyond the scope of this chapter. It may seem natural, and even advantageous, to apply the concepts in this chapter to ocean waves, but ocean waves are nonlinear, and the simple models presented in this chapter do not fully explain them. (credit: Steve Jurvetson)

Types of waves

A wave    is a disturbance that propagates, or moves from the place it was created. There are three basic types of waves: mechanical waves, electromagnetic waves, and matter waves.

Basic mechanical wave     s are governed by Newton’s laws and require a medium. A medium is the substance a mechanical waves propagates through, and the medium produces an elastic restoring force when it is deformed. Mechanical waves transfer energy and momentum, without transferring mass. Some examples of mechanical waves are water waves, sound waves, and seismic waves. The medium for water waves is water; for sound waves, the medium is usually air. (Sound waves can travel in other media as well; we will look at that in more detail in Sound .) For surface water waves, the disturbance occurs on the surface of the water, perhaps created by a rock thrown into a pond or by a swimmer splashing the surface repeatedly. For sound waves, the disturbance is a change in air pressure, perhaps created by the oscillating cone inside a speaker or a vibrating tuning fork. In both cases, the disturbance is the oscillation of the molecules of the fluid. In mechanical waves, energy and momentum transfer with the motion of the wave, whereas the mass oscillates around an equilibrium point. (We discuss this in Energy and Power of a Wave .) Earthquakes generate seismic waves from several types of disturbances, including the disturbance of Earth’s surface and pressure disturbances under the surface. Seismic waves travel through the solids and liquids that form Earth. In this chapter, we focus on mechanical waves.

Electromagnetic waves are associated with oscillations in electric and magnetic fields and do not require a medium. Examples include gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet waves, visible light, infrared waves, microwaves, and radio waves. Electromagnetic waves can travel through a vacuum at the speed of light, v = c = 2.99792458 × 10 8 m/s . For example, light from distant stars travels through the vacuum of space and reaches Earth. Electromagnetic waves have some characteristics that are similar to mechanical waves; they are covered in more detail in Electromagnetic Waves .

Questions & Answers

what is the formula for pressure?
Goodness Reply
force/area
Kidus
force is newtom
Kidus
and area is meter squared
Kidus
so in SI units pressure is N/m^2
Kidus
In customary United States units pressure is lb/in^2. pound per square inch
Kidus
who is Newton?
John Reply
scientist
Jeevan
a scientist
Peter
that discovered law of motion
Peter
ok
John
but who is Isaac newton?
John
a postmodernist would say that he did not discover them, he made them up and they're not actually a reality in itself, but a mere construct by which we decided to observe the word around us
elo
how?
Qhoshe
what is a scalar quantity
Peter Reply
scalar: are quantity have numerical value
muslim
is that a better way in defining scalar quantity
Peter
thanks
muslim
quantity that has magnitude but no direction
Peter
upward force and downward force lift
adegboye Reply
upward force and downward force on lift
adegboye
hi
Etini
hi
elo
hy
Xander
Hello
Jux_dob
hi
Peter
Helo
Tobi
what's the answer? I can't get it
Rachel Reply
what is the question again?
Sallieu
What's this conversation?
Zareen
what is catenation? and give examples
sununu
How many kilometres in 1 mile
Nessy
1.609km in 1mile
Faqir
what's the si unit of impulse
Iguh Reply
The Newton second (N•s)
Ethan
what is the s. I unit of current
Roland Reply
Amphere(A)
imam
thanks man
Roland
u r welcome
imam
the velocity of a boat related to water is 3i+4j and that of water related to earth is i-3j. what is the velocity of the boat relative to earth.If unit vector i and j represent 1km/hour east and north respectively
Pallavi Reply
what is head to tail rule?
kinza Reply
Explain Head to tail rule?
kinza
what is the guess theorem
Monu Reply
viva question and answer on practical youngs modulus by streching
Akash Reply
send me vvi que
rupesh
a car can cover a distance of 522km on 36 Liter's of petrol, how far can it travel on 14 liter of petrol.
Isaac
yoo the ans is 193
Joseph
whats a two dimensional force
Jimoh Reply
what are two dimensional force?
Ahmad
Where is Fourier Theorem?
Atul Reply
what is Boyle's law
Amoo Reply
Boyle's law state that the volume of a given mass of gas is inversely proportion to its pressure provided that temperature remains constant
Abe
how do I turn off push notifications on this crap app?
Huntergirl
what is the meaning of in.
CHUKWUMA Reply
In means natural logarithm
Elom
is dea graph for cancer caliper experiment using glass block?
Bako
why the ship created in search way?
Mershak
Practice Key Terms 7

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Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 1. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12031/1.5
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