Wave Basics

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Wave Basics

A wave is a repeating movement or disturbance that transfers energy through matter or space without transporting matter from place to place.

Waves are produced by vibrations. For example, when a net hits the water, it causes vibrations that produce waves.

The medium is the matter through which waves travel. The medium can be a solid, liquid, gas, or a combination. However, not all waves need a medium. Light and radio waves can travel through space. Mechanical waves can only travel through a medium.

Let's look at two types of waves, transverse and longitudinal.


Transverse waves are waves in which the particles in the medium move back and forth at right angles to the direction of the wave.

Anatomy of a wave

The crest is the top of the wave and the trough is the bottom of the wave.

Wavelength is the distance from crest to crest or trough to trough.

Frequency is how many wavelengths pass a certain point per second.



transverse longitudinal waves

Longitudinal waves are waves in which the displacement of the medium in the same direction as the direction of propagation or movement of the wave. In other words, the displacement of the medium is parallel to the propagation of the wave.


Longitudinal waves are also called compressional or compression waves, because they produce compression and rarefaction when traveling. 


Let’s take a look at the anatomy of a longitudinal wave.

Compressions are regions of high pressure due to particles being close together.

Rarefactions are regions of low pressure due to particles being spread further apart.

The wavelength measurement is made by measuring the distance from compression to the next compression or from a rarefaction to the next rarefaction.


The frequency of a longitudinal wave is the number of wavelengths that pass a fixed point per second per second.


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