What is Waves? | Definition, Types, Formula & Examples

What is a Wave?

When we think of the word “waves,” we often picture someone waving back and forth to say hello, or maybe we think of a wall of water from the ocean rolling into the beach.

In physics, a wave is a disturbance that moves through space and matter transfers energy from one place to another. When studying waves, it’s important to remember that they transmit energy, not matter.

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Waves in Everyday Life

There are many waves around us in daily life. Sound is a type of wave that travels through matter and then vibrates our eardrums so we can hear. Light is a special type of wave made up of photons. You can drop a rock into a pond and see waves forming in the water. We even use waves (microwaves) to cook food very quickly.

Types of Waves

Waves can be divided into different types based on their characteristics. Below we describe some of the different terms scientists use to describe waves.

Mechanical Waves and Electromagnetic Waves

All waves can be classified as either mechanical or electromagnetic.

Mechanical waves are waves that require a medium. This means they must have some sort of matter to pass through. These waves propagate when molecules in the medium collide with each other to transfer energy. An example of a mechanical wave is sound. Sound can travel through air, water, or solids, but not in a vacuum. He needs support to help him travel. Other examples include water waves, seismic waves, and source-propagating waves.

Electromagnetic waves are waves that travel in a vacuum (empty space). They do not need support or material. They pass through electric and magnetic fields created by charged particles. Examples of electromagnetic waves include light, microwaves, radio waves, and X-rays.

Transverse Waves and Longitudinal Waves

Another way to describe a wave is in the direction in which its disturbance moves.

Transverse wave is a wave whose direction of oscillation is perpendicular to the direction of wave propagation. You can imagine the wave moving from left to right as the turbulence increases and decreases. An example of a transverse wave is a water wave in which the water rises and falls as the wave crosses the ocean. Other examples include swings and waves of fans in the stadium (people move up and down as the wave moves through the stadium).

Longitudinal waves are waves in which turbulent oscillations propagate in the same direction as the direction of wave propagation. An example of this is a wave moving through a smooth or stretched spring. If you compress part of the slinky and release, the wave will move from left to right. At the same time, the disturbance (i.e. the coils of the moving spring) will also move from left to right. Another classic example of a longitudinal wave is sound. When sound waves travel through a medium, the molecules collide with each other in the same direction that the sound travels.

Interesting Facts about Waves

Waves in the ocean are mainly generated by winds moving over the ocean’s surface.

“The medium” is the substance or material that carries the mechanical wave.

One of the most important things to remember about waves is that they carry energy, not matter. This makes them different from other phenomena in physics.

Many waves are invisible such as microwaves and radio waves.

The highest recorded ocean waves measured 1,720 feet and occurred in Lituya Bay in Alaska.