Waves are disturbances that propagate through space and time. Classically, they travelled through a medium, disturbing the particles but not changing their mean position. Electromagnetic waves/particle-waves need no medium; they are disturbances in their respective fields.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

31
votes
4answers
8k views

Why do prisms work (why is refraction frequency dependent)?

It is well known that a prism can "split light" by separating different frequencies of light: Many sources state that the reason this happens is that the index of refraction is different for ...
20
votes
4answers
2k views

Validity of naively computing the de Broglie wavelength of a macroscopic object

Many introductory quantum mechanics textbooks include simple exercises on computing the de Broglie wavelength of macroscopic objects, often contrasting the results with that of a proton, etc. For ...
54
votes
12answers
29k views

What happens to the energy when waves perfectly cancel each other?

What happens to the energy when waves perfectly cancel each other (destructive interference)? It appears that the energy "disappear" but the law of conservation of energy states that it can't be ...
23
votes
5answers
29k views

Phase shift of 180 degrees on reflection from optically denser medium

Can anyone please provide an intuitive explanation of why phase shift of 180 degrees occurs in the Electric Field of a EM wave,when reflected from an optically denser medium? I tried searching for it ...
25
votes
4answers
9k views

Amplitude of an electromagnetic wave containing a single photon

Given a light pulse in vacuum containing a single photon with an energy $E=h\nu$, what is the peak value of the electric / magnetic field?
301
votes
4answers
44k views

Can I compute the mass of a coin based on the sound of its fall?

Other day, I bumped my bookshelf and a coin fell down. This gave me an idea. Is it possible to compute the mass of a coin, based on the sound emitted when it falls? I think that there should be a ...
8
votes
2answers
3k views

How do mirrors work?

My physics professor explained to me that electromagnetic waves are consisted of two components - electric and magnetic - which cause each other. Which part of the mirror actually reflects the wave? ...
2
votes
2answers
459 views

What restrictions on time boundary conditions does it have to use Fourier transform to solve wave equation?

The wave equation can be solved using Fourier transform, by assuming a solution of the form of $$\mathbf{E}(x,y,z,t)~=~\mathbf{E}(x,y,z)e^{j\omega t}$$ and then reducing the equation to the Helmholtz ...
7
votes
2answers
573 views

Patterns in laminar flow of tap water

This is a simple experiment that anyone can do at home. Open your tap so that the water maintains a laminar flow, and the cross section of flow is considerably thin. Place your finger 3-4 cm below the ...
9
votes
4answers
18k views

Why is energy in a wave proportional to amplitude squared

I'm a mathematics student trying to grasp some basics about wave propagation. A sentence I find very often in introductive physics textbooks is the following: In a wave, energy is proportional to ...
4
votes
5answers
2k views

Radio antenna producing waves in the visible spectrum [closed]

If a radio could produce waves in the visible light spectrum, what would the result be? This is a thought experiment that I've pondered for a few years now. I realize there are a few/many real-world ...
4
votes
2answers
5k views

Group Velocity and Phase Velocity of Matter Wave?

In quantum mechanics, what is the difference between group velocity and phase velocity of matter wave? How can it also be that phase velocity of matter wave always exceeds the speed of light?
6
votes
2answers
7k views

Speed of a particle in quantum mechanics: phase velocity vs. group velocity

Given that one usually defines two different velocities for a wave, these being the phase velocity and the group velocity, I was asking their meaning for the associated particle in quantum mechanics. ...
6
votes
4answers
262 views

Is light amplitude spatial?

In diagrams I often see light waves depicted as little sine waves that travel through space. And often when describing polarizers, the explainer will angle their hand to show the angle of ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

If light rays obey to the wave equation, why can they be thought as straight lines?

I'm a newbie with physics but I'm wondering how a ray of light can essentially be represented. I have always known that a ray of light proceeds in a straight line until it encounters another object (...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

What does a de Broglie wave look like?

What does a de Broglie wave look like? Are de Broglie waves transverse or longitudinal? Can they be polarized? What about the de Broglie wave of a ground state neutral spin-zero Helium 4 atom? ...
5
votes
4answers
1k views

Optical explanation of images of stars?

Very often when viewing pictures of the cosmos taken by telescopes, one can observe that larger/brighter stars do not appear precisely as points/circles on the image. Indeed, the brighter the light ...
15
votes
4answers
2k views

Popular depictions of electromagnetic wave: is there an error?

Here are some depictions of electromagnetic wave, similar to the depictions in other places: Isn't there an error? It is logical to presume that the electric field should have maximum when ...
3
votes
2answers
526 views

Why do light disappears the moment we switch off the source (inside the wooden box)?

I am failing to explain why light won't remain inside the wooden box in the following situation. I considered a wooden box closed from all the sides, with a bulb inside it. If we switch on the bulb, ...
16
votes
5answers
3k views

Do the electric and magnetic components of an electromagnetic wave really generate each other?

Frequently when EM waves are taught, it is said that the change in electric field causes a change in the magnetic field, which then causes a change in the electric field, and so on and so forth. But ...
4
votes
2answers
7k views

What's a good textbook to learn about waves and oscillations?

I'm taking a course on waves and oscillations using Crawford from the Berkeley series (out of print excluding international copies), and would like to know if anyone has any suggestions for a better ...
3
votes
2answers
11k views

Frequency of the sound when blowing in a bottle

I'm sure you have tried sometime to make a sound by blowing in an empty bottle. Of course, the tone/frequency of the sound modifies if the bottle changes its shape, volume, etc. I am interested in ...
5
votes
9answers
6k views

Why do we think of light as a wave?

I've read that light travels in a straight line and has a wavelength of 400nm to 700nm. But I don't understand why does it have a wavelength and what creates its wavelength? I agree with the concept ...
17
votes
6answers
15k views

Why do bass tones travel through walls?

I was in the shower while my roommate was listening to music and got to thinking about the fact that I could only hear the bass and lower drums through the walls. Why is this? The two possibilities I ...
6
votes
3answers
864 views

Recently publicized experiment on destructive interference between two laser beams

Recently I've had several non-physicist friends ask me, independently of each other, about an experiment where two collinear laser beams destructively interfere along a certain length. Everybody wants ...
12
votes
5answers
8k views

Waves in water always circular

I have had a question since childhood. Why do we always get circular waves (ripples) in water even when we throw irregularly shaped object in it?
8
votes
2answers
4k views

The shape of speaker cones

This is related to another question I just asked, but they are different enough I thought it deserved its own spot. Speaker elements seem to always be shaped like a cone with a portion of a sphere at ...
4
votes
2answers
989 views

Do Photons Move in a Wave Like Pattern? [duplicate]

In many pieces of literature, light is said to travel like a "wave". Does this mean the light literally propagates through space like a wave as in up and down and so on or does light move linearly ...
1
vote
3answers
188 views

Derviation of group velocity

I am working thru a derivation of the group velocity formula and I get to this stage: $$y=2A\cos(x\frac{\Delta K}{2} -t\frac{\Delta \omega}{2})\sin( \bar k x-\bar \omega t)$$ Then all the derivations ...
1
vote
3answers
270 views

How are gravitational waves exactly produced?

I was thinking about gravitational waves, and I found out that I may have a doubt about their production. Assuming the whole calculations find a wave-like solution to be understood, I was wondering ...
1
vote
2answers
298 views

Uncertainty and wave-trains

My textbook and the following extract from feynman's lectures present the same idea regarding wavetrains and uncertainty in their wavelengths. Why is it that a wavetrain confined to some space has an ...
28
votes
9answers
30k views

Why does wavelength affect diffraction?

I have seen many questions of this type but I could nowhere find the answer to "why". I know this is a phenomenon which has been seen and discovered and we know it happens and how it happens. But my ...
25
votes
3answers
3k views

Do photons occupy space?

Total noob here. I realize that photons do not have a mass. However, they must somehow occupy space, as I've read that light waves can collide with one another. Do photons occupy space? and if so, ...
25
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is Huygens' principle only valid in an odd number of spatial dimensions?

Apparently Huygens' principle is only valid in an odd number of spatial dimensions: http://mathoverflow.net/a/5396/21349 Huygen's principle in curved spacetimes Why is this? [EDIT] This is ...
19
votes
8answers
4k views

Why are sine/cosine always used to describe oscillations?

What I am really asking is are there other functions that, like $\sin()$ and $\cos()$ are bounded from above and below, and periodic? If there are, why are they never used to describe oscillations in ...
13
votes
1answer
6k views

Theory behind patterns formed on Chladni plates?

In this video of vibrating Chladni plates we can see small sand particles align themselves into different interesting patterns (also shown in the image below) which correspond to some particular ...
17
votes
4answers
5k views

Energy conservation and interference

I have a problem with energy conservation in case of interfering waves. Imagine two harmonic waves with amplitudes $A$. They both carry energy that is proportional to $A^2$, so the total energy is ...
11
votes
7answers
2k views

Why don't waves erase out each other when looking onto a wall?

If I stand exactly in front of a colorful wall, I imagine the light waves they emit, and they receive should randomly double or erase out each other. So as a result, I imagine I should see a weird ...
8
votes
2answers
8k views

De Broglie wavelength, frequency and velocity - interpretation

Two fundamental equations regarding wave-particle duality are: $$ \lambda = \frac{h}{p}, \\ \nu = E/h .$$ We talk about de Broglie wavelength, is it meaningful to talk about de Broglie frequency ($\...
6
votes
1answer
12k views

Relationship between slit size and wavelength in diffraction

Almost in every book on physics we can find a statement like "diffraction gets stronger when the size of the slit is comparable to the wavelength". Let's say we have a wall in a bathtub with a slit in ...
5
votes
5answers
4k views

Producing photons with same frequency, different amplitude wave [duplicate]

I don't understand how two photons of the same frequency can have different amplitudes, neither how to produce them. I know that classically the square of the amplitude is proportional to the energy, ...
5
votes
4answers
316 views

How does Huygens Principle incorporate the unidirectional property of a traveling wave?

I was reading French's Vibrations & Waves where he discusses Huygens-Frensel Principle. The principle talks about how secondary sources give rise to secondary wavelets to form the displaced ...
5
votes
2answers
4k views

What Exactly is a Shock Wave?

The Wikipedia defintion of a shock wave pretty much sums up all I've found online about what a shock wave is: A shock wave is a type of propagating disturbance. Like an ordinary wave, it carries ...
0
votes
2answers
3k views

Does wave interference happen only to same frequency waves?

As the title says, from books and results from internet, I find that examples of wave interference always have the same frequency, only different in phase constant. So, I'd like to know if wave ...
20
votes
1answer
6k views

How can shock waves travel faster than sound?

A shock wave can be caused by the disturbance of air by an airplane. When it propagates, shouldn't the mechanism be the same as that of a longitudinal sound wave? Why can a shock travel faster than ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

How is the Schroedinger equation a wave equation?

Wave equations take the form: $$\frac{ \partial^2 f} {\partial t^2} = c^2 \nabla ^2f$$ But the Schroedinger equation takes the form: $$i \hbar \frac{ \partial f} {\partial t} = - \frac{\hbar ^2}{...
4
votes
3answers
558 views

Double-Slit Experiment Separation Between Fringes

I was taught in class that the double slit diffraction pattern would always have bright fringes of same length. We derived the formula: $y=m(\lambda)(L)/d$, which also shows this equal distance. I ...
4
votes
2answers
5k views

The energy of an electromagnetic wave

The intensity of an electromagnetic wave is only related to its amplitude $E^2$ and not its frequency. A photon has the same wavelength as the wave that's carrying it, and its energy is $h f$. So ...
3
votes
1answer
354 views

How can radiation be a transverse wave? Does light really resemble a rope? How can a 3D field be a medium for non-spatial 1D waves? Need mental model

I understand longitudinal waves. For example, I've got a clear mental modal of air waves: a slice of air becomes overcompressed, then the slice next to it becomes overcompressed and the first slice ...
4
votes
2answers
610 views

Pendulum Wave Period

Recently I've seen various videos showing the pendulum wave effect. All of the videos which I have found have a pattern which repeats every $60\mathrm{s}$. I am trying to work out the relationship ...