Properties of Waves

Edited by Jamie (ScienceAid Editor), Taylor (ScienceAid Editor), Ali_ch0, SmartyPants and 3 others

About Waves

Above is a displacement/distance graph showing a wave. It is labeled with some key terms.

Parts of a Wave

  1. 1
    The amplitude is the height of the wave from 0 displacement (normal) to the peak at its highest point.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  2. 2
    The Wavelength is the distance from the start to the second point the wave passes 0. i.e. a complete wave.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  3. 3
    On a displacement/time graph, the period would be equivalent to the time of the wavelength. The frequency is 1 / period and measured in Hz (1Hz = 1wave per second).
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help

The Wave Equation

Have a look at the examples using this equation, below. A loudspeaker reproduces a note of frequency 320Hz. It travels through the air at the speed of 340ms-1.

A. What is the wavelength in air? l = v/f l = 340ms-1 / 320Hz l = 1.06m

B. The sound passes through water where its wavelength is 4.5m. Calculate the speed of sound in water V = fl V = 320Hz x 4.5m (frequency doesn't change) V = 1,440ms-1

Types of Waves

There are two basic types of wave. They are

  1. 1
    The oscillation/vibration is at right angles to the direction of travel. An example of transverse waves is electromagnetic waves.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  2. 2
    Longitudinal Wave
    The oscillations/vibrations are along the line of travel. These are mechanical waves because it actually moves particles. E.g. sound waves.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Questions and Answers

For mechanical waves how are they created and how are they similar to electromagnetic waves?

I know that Mechanical waves require a medium and electromagnetic do not but I do not know if the parts of the two waves are the same for the both waves or if they are created differently. Do all waves require the same parts to form the waves like electromagnetic waves and are there different things we need to know about who similar or different they are from each other. I have tried: Search other websites and found only a few details and not enough information. I think it was caused by: I'm so lost I don't know. I know the mediums are required but I'm so confused on what they mean about that.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

The difference between mechanical and electromagnetic waves is that the earlier needs a medium to penetrate through such as air, water, etc. whereas the later (electromagnetic wave) does not need a medium to penetrate through and can penetrate in the vacuum. A typical example of an electromagnetic wave is a light signal and an example of a mechanical wave can be the ripples formed on the surface of the water when a stone is thrown. Do you mean by parts as the amplitude, the wavelength, etc? There is no difference, as both types of waves will have amplitudes, crests, troughs wavelengths and others but not necessarily the same shape or magnitude.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

What is the crest of a wave? Can you show a diagram?

I need to show a diagram and I have to show a side view and label the crest, trough, and amplitude.

Below is a diagram that shows the crest, the trough, and the amplitude:

When waves displace the material/medium/space they travel through, what happens to that displaced stuff?

I understand waves displace the material through which they travel, but what happens to that displaced stuff? Especially when the wave travels through space where there is no stuff... as I understand it. Does the displaced stuff have more energy in it after the wave goes through? I didn't see any discussion of the displacement that a wave causes and what happens during that displacement. Is this question addressed best by classical physics or does it entail some quantum discussion? I have tried: Just starting my investigation and I found your website. I think it was caused by: Not sure this question actually relates to what I am trying to find out.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

ScienceAid QnA. This section is not written yet. Want to join in? Click EDIT to write this answer.

Referencing this Article

If you need to reference this article in your work, you can copy-paste the following depending on your required format:

APA (American Psychological Association)
Properties of Waves. (2017). In ScienceAid. Retrieved Apr 25, 2024, from

MLA (Modern Language Association) "Properties of Waves." ScienceAid, Accessed 25 Apr 2024.

Chicago / Turabian "Properties of Waves." Accessed Apr 25, 2024.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


ScienceAid welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.

Article Info

Categories : Waves

Recent edits by: Sim, Sharingknowledge, SmartyPants

Share this Article:

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 19,045 times.


Thank Our Volunteer Authors.

Would you like to give back to the community by fixing a spelling mistake? Yes | No