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Introduction

to Waves
What are light and sound made of?

The anatomy of a wave

Transverse and longitudinal waves Light and sound are waves. But what does that mean? A wave is something which transfers energy from one place to another by causing an oscillating disturbance. Just like ripples on a pond.

x x x x x

Wavelength (O) is the distance from peak to peak. O Amplitude (A) is the size of the disturbance. It is the distance from the middle (equilibrium) position to the highest point on the wave. Frequency (f) is how many waves pass a single point in one second. Wave Speed (v) is how fast the wave is travelling. Time Period (T) is the length of time it takes for one oscillation.

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Introduction to Waves
Transverse and Longitudinal Waves
Allwavesarecausedbyadisturbance.Dependingonthedirectionofthisdisturbance,the wavecanhavedifferenteffectsandproperties.

(a) Longitudinal wavesoscillateinthesamedirectionastheytravel(Sound). (b) Transverse wavesoscillateperpendiculartothedirectionoftravel(Light).

Sound
Sound is a longitudinal wave. It passes through a medium (such as air) because of compression and rarefaction. This is like the squashing and Frequency pitch stretchingofthespringabove. Amplitude volume There must be a medium to vibrate or sound cannot pass through.Soundcannottravelthroughavacuum.

Light
Lightisatransversewave.Itiscausedbyachangingelectricandmagneticfield,soisoften calledanelectromagnetic wave. Frequency colour It does not need a medium light is able to pass through a Amplitude intensity vacuum(hencewecanseeTheSun,butnothearit!).

Mechanical Waves
These are disturbances in materials, and can be either transverse or longitudinal. Earthquakes cause both types of waves to pass through the Earth, carrying energy to differentplaces.

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