Waves In Physics

Waves In Physics
Waves In Physics

Undulatory is the branch of Physics responsible for studying the behavior of waves and oscillations. Its study allows the investigation of different wave phenomena, namely reflection, refraction, absorption, polarization, dispersion, diffraction, interference and resonance. In waves, it is possible to calculate the frequency, period, wavelength and propagation speed of waves.

Summary about wave

    • Waves can be classified according to their nature (mechanical or electromagnetic), their direction of vibration (transverse and longitudinal) and the number of propagation dimensions (one-dimensional, two-dimensional and three-dimensional) .
    • They are periodic when there is a pattern of oscillation over a period of time.
    • They are stationary when they result from the superposition of waves of the same frequency that move in the same and opposite directions.
    • Wave crests are the uppermost points of the wave.
    • Wave troughs are the lowest points of the wave.
    • Wavelength is the size of the wave.
    • Amplitude is the height of the wave.
    • The period of the wave is the time it takes to complete one oscillation.
    • Wave frequency is the number of oscillations per unit of time.
    • Wave phenomena are : reflection, refraction, absorption, polarization, dispersion, diffraction, interference, and resonance.


What does the wave study?

Undulatory studies the characteristics, properties and phenomena of waves and oscillations. Through its study, it is possible to understand the behavior of waves, regardless of their type.

Types of waves in the wave

We can classify waves according to their nature, their direction of vibration and the number of dimensions in which their energy propagates. Furthermore, they can also be periodic and stationary.

  • Regarding the nature of the wave: waves can be mechanical or electromagnetic . Mechanical waves are those that need a medium to propagate, as is the case with sound waves . Electromagnetic waves do not need a medium to propagate, like visible light waves.
  • Regarding the direction of wave vibration: waves can be transverse or longitudinal. Transverse waves vibrate in the direction perpendicular to their propagation, as is the case with sea waves. Longitudinal waves vibrate in the same direction as their propagation, like sound waves.

Longitudinal and transverse waves.

  • Regarding the number of dimensions of wave energy propagation: waves can be one-dimensional, two-dimensional or three-dimensional. One-dimensional waves oscillate in one dimension, like a wave on a string. Two-dimensional waves present oscillation in two dimensions, like a wave on a river. Three-dimensional waves present oscillation in three dimensions, like the heat wave of a flame.
  • Periodic waves : these are waves that constantly repeat the same wavelength at a given time — for example, the vibration waves of the heart.
  • Standing waves : these are periodic waves resulting from interference between waves of similar frequencies that propagate in the same direction, but in opposite directions — for example, waves on a string.

Wave elements

There are several elements of waves, such as crest, trough, wavelength, amplitude, period, frequency and speed. In the image below we can see its representations in a periodic wave.

  • Wave crest: Wave crests are the highest points of the wave.
  • Wave trough: Wave troughs are the lowest points of the wave.
  • Wavelength: Wavelength is the distance between two consecutive crests or two consecutive troughs. It can also be the measurement of a crest and a trough, corresponding to the size of the wave.
  • Wave amplitude: amplitude is the difference between the crest or trough and the equilibrium point (zero point), corresponding to the height of the wave.
  • Wave Period: The period of a wave is the time it takes for the wave to complete one complete oscillation. It is the inverse of the frequency.
  • Wave Frequency: The frequency of a wave is the number of oscillations made by the wave in a given time. It is the inverse of the period.
  • Wave propagation speed : Wave propagation speed is the speed at which a wave passes through a medium — for example, the speed of light in a vacuum is approximately .108 / s3⋅108 �/�
  • Reflection

Reflection is the wave phenomenon that allows light , when encountering an obstacle, to collide and reflect back to our eyes . In this phenomenon, light does not change its speed, as there was no change in the medium.

Reflection of light.
Reflection of light.

This phenomenon allows us to see our reflection in the water. This happens because light, when it comes into contact with water, hits the water and is reflected back to our eyes.

  • Refraction

Refraction is the wave phenomenon that causes light, when changing medium, to undergo changes in its propagation speed and wavelength , however its frequency remains the same, since the source that emitted the wave is the same.

Green pencil inside a glass of water illustrating the concept of light refraction.  In the image, the pencil appears broken.
 Refraction of light.

This phenomenon causes us to see objects out of focus when they are submerged in water. We see its image higher than its actual position.

  • Absorption

Absorption is the phenomenon that occurs when, when emitted onto bodies, light is absorbed by them . With this, it allows us to see the colors of objects, depending exclusively on the color of the light emitted and the color of the object.

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