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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 th formular for force
Joseph Reply
F = m x a
State newton's second law of motion
Seth Reply
can u tell me I cant remember
force is equal to mass times acceleration
The uniform seesaw shown below is balanced on a fulcrum located 3.0 m from the left end. The smaller boy on the right has a mass of 40 kg and the bigger boy on the left has a mass 80 kg. What is the mass of the board?
Asad Reply
Consider a wave produced on a stretched spring by holding one end and shaking it up and down. Does the wavelength depend on the distance you move your hand up and down?
Sohail Reply
how can one calculate the value of a given quantity
Helen Reply
To determine the exact value of a percent of a given quantity we need to express the given percent as fraction and multiply it by the given number.
briefly discuss rocket in physics
Ibrahim Reply
ok let's discuss
What is physics
Nura Reply
physics is the study of natural phenomena with concern with matter and energy and relationships between them
a potential difference of 10.0v is connected across a 1.0AuF in an LC circuit. calculate the inductance of the inductor that should be connected to the capacitor for the circuit to oscillate at 1125Hza potential difference of 10.0v is connected across a 1.0AuF in an LC circuit. calculate the inducta
Royalty Reply
L= 0.002H
how did you get it?
is the magnetic field of earth changing
tibebeab Reply
what is thought to be the energy density of multiverse and is the space between universes really space
can you explain it
Energy can not either created nor destroyed .therefore who created? and how did it come to existence?
Suzana Reply
this greatly depend on the kind of energy. for gravitational energy, it is result of the shattering effect violent collision of two black holes on the space-time which caused space time to be disturbed. this is according to recent study on gravitons and gravitational ripple. and many other studies
and not every thing have to pop into existence. and it could have always been there . and some scientists think that energy might have been the only entity in the euclidean(imaginary time T=it) which is time undergone wick rotation.
What is projectile?
Nana Reply
An object that is launched from a device
2 dimensional motion under constant acceleration due to gravity
Not always 2D Awais
no comments
why not? a bullet is a projectile, so is a rock I throw
bullet travel in x and y comment same as rock which is 2 dimensional
no all pf you are wrong. projectile is any object propelled through space by excretion of a force which cease after launch
for awais, there is no such thing as constant acceleration due to gravity, because gravity change from place to place and from different height
it is the object not the motion or its components
where are body center of mass on present.
Balwant Reply
on the mid point
is the magnetic field of the earth changing?
does shock waves come to effect when in earth's inner atmosphere or can it have an effect on the thermosphere or ionosphere?
and for the question from bal want do you mean human body or just any object in space
A stone is dropped into a well of 19.6m deep and the impact of sound heared after 2.056 second ,find the velocity of sound in air.
Sisco Reply
9.53 m/s ?
In this case, the velocity of sound is 350 m/s.
some calculations is need. then you will get exact result.
i mean how? isn't it just a d over t?
calculate the time it takes the stone to hit the ground then minus the stone's time to the total time... then divide the total distance by the difference of the time
awit lenard. Hahahah ari ga to!
Why do we use mochromatic light? If white light is used, how would the pattern change
Dominic Reply
what is the dimension of force
Omolola Reply
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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