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The Nature and Properties of Waves

Whats in a Wave?
Wave a rhythmic disturbance that transfers energy through matter or space
Carries energy without transporting matter from place to place

Mechanical Waves
medium solid, liquid, or gas that a wave travels through
Two types of mechanical waves:



Transverse Waves
Transverse waves matter moves in the medium back and forth at right
angles to the direction that the wave is traveling
Light waves & water waves

Compressional Waves
Compressional waves matter in the medium
moves back and forth in the same direction
that the wave travels
Sound waves

Seismic Waves
Seismic waves combination of transverse and compressional waves which
carry energy along and through Earth

The Parts of a Wave

Crest the highest points of a

Trough the lowest points of a wave

Compression place in compressional wave where the particles are pushed

Rarefaction place in compressional wave where the particles are spread

Wavelength the distance between one point on a
wave and the nearest point just like it

Frequency and Period

Frequency the number of waves that pass a
given point each second
Measured in Hertz = 1/sec
Period: The amount of time it takes one
wavelength to pass a point

Period and frequency relationship

T = period
f = frequency
T= 1/f

f = 1/T

One hertz is equal to one peak (or cycle) per second. 1/sec

Frequency and Wavelength

Frequency and wavelength are inversely
Long wavelength = Low frequency
Short wavelength = High Frequency

Wave Speed
The speed of a wave depends on the properties of the medium it is traveling
In general sound waves travel the fastest through solids then liquids
then gases
Light waves travel the fastest in empty space and slowest through
Sound waves travel faster through warmer mediums

Calculating Wave Speed

Speed = wavelength x frequency
V = velocity (m/s)
= wavelength (m)
f = frequency (Hz; 1/sec)

Example #1
What is the speed of a wave with a wavelength of 2m and a frequency of 3
V = (2)(3)
V = 6 m/s
Example #2
A wave is traveling at a speed of 12 m/s and its wavelength is 3m. Calculate
the waves frequency.
12 = (3)(f)
12 = f
4 Hz = f
Do these on your own

A tuning fork has a frequency of 280 Hertz and the wavelength of the sound
produced is 1.5 meters. Calculate the velocity of the wave.
A wave is moving toward shore with a velocity of 5.0 m/s. If its frequency is
2.5 hertz, what is its wavelength?

Amplitude and Energy

Amplitude the energy carried by a wave or how high the wave is; related to
the amount of energy
For compressional waves its the amount of compression in the wave
Example: The higher the wave, the more energy (THINK on ocean
For transverse waves its the height of the wave
Wave Properties
There are 4 properties of wave
Wave speed

Wave Properties
1. Amplitude

The maximum distance that the particles of a wave vibrate from the
rest position.
An other words from the rest position to the crest or from the
rest position to the trough.

Shows the amount of energy there is in a wave.

The bigger the amplitude the more energy there is.

2. Wavelength

The distance from any point on a wave to an identical point on the next
Generally measured from crest to crest on a transverse wave
and from compression to compression on a longitudinal wave.

The shorter the wavelength the more energy there is.

3. Frequency

The number of waves produced in a given amount of time

Measured in Hertz (Hz)


(1 wave per second)


The higher the frequency the more energy

Wave Speed

The speed at which a wave travels

V= x f

v wave speed
f frequency
The wavelength and frequency of a wave in a certain medium depends on the wave
speed not the other way around

Wave Interactions
There are 4 types of wave interactions

Wave Interactions
The bouncing back of a wave when it hits a surface.
* NOTE: When waves hits a substance some of it is transmitted
and some of it is reflected.

Transmitted means to pass through

This is why we can see objects and hear echoes.


The bending of waves as they pass

through different mediums that cause the speed
of the wave to change.



Change of direction of a wave when it hits an obstacle or edge.

Sound diffracts well around corners

Light does not diffract as much because their wavelengths

are shorter

When 2 or more waves combine
Two objects cant occupy the same space
at the same time, but waves can.
There are 4 types of interference
Constructive interference
Destructive interference
Standing waves

Constructive interference
When the crest and trough
different waves match
They combine to make a
wave with larger amplitude


Destructive interference
When the crest of one wave
meets the trough of another
The results are a smaller
amplitude or no amplitude


Seismic waves are the waves of energy caused by the sudden breaking of
rock within the earth or an explosion. They are the energy that travels
through the earth and is recorded on seismographs.

There are several different kinds of seismic waves, and they all move in
different ways. The two main types of waves are body waves and surface

P Waves (compression wave)

-the first kind of body wave is the P wave or primary wave. This is the fastest
kind of seismic wave. The P wave can move through solid rock and fluids, like
water or the liquid layers of the earth. It pushes and pulls the rock it moves
through just like sound waves push and pull the air.

S wave (transverse wave)

-the second type of body wave is the S wave or secondary wave, which is
the second wave you feel in an earthquake. An S wave is slower than a P
wave and can only move through solid rock. This wave moves rock up and
down, or side-to-side.

Love Waves
-the first kind of surface wave is called a Love wave, named after A.E.H.
Love, a British mathematician who worked out the mathematical model for
this kind of wave in 1911. It's the fastest surface wave and moves the ground
from side-to-side.

Rayleigh Waves
-the other kind of surface wave is the Rayleigh wave, named for John
William Strutt, Lord Rayleigh, who mathematically predicted the existence of
this kind of wave in 1885. A Rayleigh wave rolls along the ground just like a
wave rolls across a lake or an ocean. Because it rolls, it moves the ground up
and down, and side-to-side in the same direction that the wave is moving.

Most of the shaking felt from an earthquake is due to the Rayleigh wave,
which can be much larger than the other waves.