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.

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Flipping a deck of cards: why do the cards cluster?

First let me describe what I mean by flipping a deck of cards. Fan a deck out, take the card on one side, flip it - then, much like a string of dominos, the rest of the cards are flipped and end up ...
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144 views

Why does water appear still near the shore

Often when there's a light wind I notice this behaviour on lakes that there appears to be a very distinct line between the water with waves and the calm water. I don't know how well it comes through ...
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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? ...
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623 views

Would fog impair echolocation abilities?

I was driving down a major highway today and the fog was thick enough I could barely see 40 ft in front of me. I then wondered if I had had some other form of perception could I have perceived my ...
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487 views

Why do rain waves form and what is their connection to the texture of the surface they're on?

When it rains and water flows down an inclined street, ripples may form that are carried along with the current. Here's a picture with an example of what I'm talking about I'd like to know what the ...
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687 views

Do particles in a sound wave ever move transversally?

I'm trying to visualize how sound waves work and I was curious about something. So sound moves in longitudinal waves, which I think I understand. There is a really good khanacademy video explaining ...
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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 ...
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4answers
530 views

Are EM radiation and EM waves the same thing?

Are EM radiation and EM waves the same thing? I have seen this topics treated separately in many books. It is still not clear to me whether EM radiation and EM waves are synonymous. Is there any ...
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Slinky reverb: the origin of the iconic Star Wars blaster sound

This is a fun problem that I came across recently, which I'm posting here for your delectation. We all love a good slinky: they can be used for all sorts of fun demos in physics. One example is the "...
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2answers
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How can you make harmonics on a string? [duplicate]

For an oscillating string that is clamped at both ends (I am thinking of a guitar string specifically) there will be a standing wave with specific nodes and anti-nodes at defined $x$ positions. I ...
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175 views

Are mechanical energy of an element of a rope and energy density constant in the case of mechanical waves?

I'm confused about energy driven by a wave. Consider a sinousoidal wave moving in a rope. In my view each element $dm$ of the rope follows a simple harmonic motion in time. That means that the ...
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What should be the intuitive explanation of wave equation?

$$\dfrac {\partial^2 y}{{\partial x}^2} = \dfrac{1}{v^2} \dfrac{\partial^2 y}{{\partial t}^2}$$ is the wave equation in one dimension. But what should be the intuition behind it? That is, what meaning ...
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How to “derive” the wave equation without refering to strings?

The wave equation in $3$ dimensions is simply: $$\nabla^2\psi = \dfrac{1}{v^2} \dfrac{\partial^2}{\partial t^2}\psi,$$ and the intuition behind this is that at each point of space with coordinates $(...
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139 views

why interference pattern changes with given relation when the source slit changes?

Why for interference condition to be seen the dependence relation should be like $${\frac{s}{S}}<{\frac{\lambda}{d}}$$.Where $s$ is width of source slit and $S$ is the distance between the source ...
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295 views

Why a ship can't pass through its own wave?

This is a photo of a container vessel. All container vessels are long because they are cruising at high speeds. When a ship is sailing it creates waves. When the wavelength of these waves equal the ...
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Why does inverting a song have no influence?

I inverted the waveform of a given song and was wondering what will happen. The result is that it sounds the exact same way as before. I used Audacity and doublechecked if the wave-form really is ...
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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 (...
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Why do you only hear the bass when someone nearby is wearing earphones?

When someone nearby is listening to music through earphones or headphones, usually you can only hear the bass (unless it's really loud where you can hear the singer's voice and the other instruments ...
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How quickly is motion transferred in a solid object?

Just for example: assume an iron bar one foot in length. If you push on one end, the entire bar will move. This seems instantaneous. but actually, from my understanding, the atoms all push against ...
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Complex numbers in optics

I have recently studied optics. But I feel having missed something important: how can amplitudes of light waves be complex numbers?
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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 ...
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Are small speakers inherently limited to higher frequencies?

I am hoping to build a subwoofer using multiple smaller speakers (165mm) instead of a single larger speaker (380mm). My theory is that the displaced air volume is what matters, not the individual ...
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970 views

Circular polarization of variable-frequency light by 3D cinema glasses

A dominant method to obtain 3D images in the cinemas seems to be circular polarization. Separate pictures are projected with (alternating) circular polarization filters and passive glasses of the ...
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Superposition of electromagnetic waves

The superposition of two waves is given by $$\sin(\omega_1 t)+\sin(\omega_2 t)=2\cos\left(\frac{\omega_1-\omega_2}{2}t\right)\sin\left(\frac{\omega_1+\omega_2}{2}t\right).$$ For sound waves, this ...
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Boundary layer theory in fluids learning resources

I'm trying to understand boundary layer theory in fluids. All I've found are dimensional arguments, order of magnitude arguments, etc... What I'm looking for is more mathematically sound arguments. ...
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301 views

Explanation of the waves on the water planet in the movie Interstellar?

We will ignore some of the more obvious issues with the movie and assume all other things are consistent to have fun with some of these questions. Simple [hopefully] Pre-questions: 1) If the water ...
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Wave Physics - can a dynamic waveform be constrained to a specific geometry by signal processing alone?

Suppose that you have a signal source, a set of point-transducers, and a handful of moderately powerful DSPs. Is it possible to construct an arrangement of the transducers such that the original ...
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Will a violin string keep vibrating for a longer time in vacuum than in air?

Hitting a string of a violin or a guitar will cause that string to vibrate, but after short time the amplitude of the vibration will decay, consequently the produced sound will die out. I suppose ...
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957 views

Why should a solution to the wave equation be finite?

Given the wave differential equation $$\frac{\partial^2 y}{\partial t^2} = k\frac{\partial^2 y}{\partial x^2}$$ Any function that satisfies the wave differential equation represents a wave ...
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690 views

Which formula for the de Broglie wavelength of an electron is correct?

So, I have my exams in physics in a week, and upon reviewing I was confused by the explanation of de Broglie wavelength of electrons in my book. Firstly, they stated that the equation was: $\lambda = \...
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What is the meaning of the word “particle” in particle physics?

I want to use Matt Strassler's definition of the word "particle" as a specific example: Matt Strassler writes: (1) "...all the elementary “particles” (i.e. quanta) of nature are quanta of waves ...
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Is it possible for a sound to be louder as you move away from it?

I was asked a puzzling question/thought experiment: Given the source of a sound in a wide open field so acoustics do not play a role, is it possible for a sound to be louder as you move away from it. ...
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Are water waves (i.e. on the surface of the ocean) longitudinal or transverse?

I'm convinced that water waves for example: are a combination of longitudinal and transverse. Any references or proofs of this or otherwise?
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Are there “gaps” in light, or will it hit everywhere?

Not sure how to word my question. Picture a light source in vacuum, so nothing disturbs the light (or similar conditions), 2d. If I move very, very far away, will it happen that some of the light ...
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344 views

Need mathematical explanation for different musical notes sound different on different instruments

I am not expert in music. There are number of musical instruments. One (especially a person who knows about music) can blindly recognize which instrument is being played just by listening to it. I ...
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Can someone explain how water from a garden hose can propagate in a sine/cosine wave?

A video posted on Youtube. How does this phenomenon work? I know he is using frequency to propagate water in a sine/cosine wave, but how does it exactly work this way? Why do we see it as if its ...
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Why does energy in earthquake waves seem to go up with the three halves power?

My question might be based on a false premise, so here's why I asked. If you look up the meaning of the moment magnitude scale for measuring earthquake size, the articles usually say that each ...
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Why can't light penetrate solid objects?

Light is combination of perpendicular electric and magnetic fields, since electric fields penetrate a conductor, why can't light travel in them? I think my argument does sound stupid, but I can't ...
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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 ($\...
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745 views

Is a soundproofed wall really only as strong as its weakest area?

I've seen a few questions about sound waves and sound travel here on Physics SE, so I'm hoping this question is a good fit for this site. During my internet research on soundproofing, I've come ...
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Pressure standing wave nodes at the end of the open side of a tube

I do not understand why standing sound waves can be formed in a one-side or two-side open tube. Consider a one-side open tube. In particular how does the reflection of the wave at the open end occur? ...
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448 views

What really is a wave and how it is treated mathematically?

First of all, I know there's a much alike question here but this is not duplicate since I couldn't find there the answer I'm seeking. My problem is the following: I know that intuitively we have a ...
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147 views

Minimal Extension of Wave Equation to Include Dispersion

Let's say you are modeling some process with the wave equation $\frac{1}{c^{2}}\frac{\partial^{2}\psi}{\partial t^{2}} = \nabla^{2}\psi$. You wish to improve your model by including dispersive effects,...
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7answers
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A Musical Pathway

Using a small number of sound emitters, could you create a room where certain nodes emitted particular tones, but no meaningful sound was heard anywhere else. So, for example, by walking down a ...
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2answers
367 views

Does light have timbre?

Timbre is a property associated with the shape of a sound wave, that is, the coefficients of the discrete Fourier transform of the corresponding signal. This is why a violin and a piano can each play ...
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415 views

Intuitive explanation for the de Broglie / Planck relations

A friend asked me to explain "why" a particle's energy is proportional to it's frequency, i.e: $$E=h\nu$$ The reason this result is so un-intuitive, is that in the macroscopic world, A wave's energy (...
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757 views

How does infrared light 'erase' phosphorescence on zinc sulfide?

I found some sheets of zinc sulfide in my basement that phosphoresce green for up to 24 hours or so after exposure to bright light in the violet range or shorter. One of the first things I tried was ...
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190 views

Wavy stream of liquid

When pouring a liquid into a glass some streams have a wavy shape, like the one in the following photo: (Couldn't find a better picture, sorry.) What causes the stream to be of such a shape?
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580 views

Are pure mechanical evanescent waves possible?

Consider a lattice of massive points connected by harmonic springs, with zero or periodic boundary conditions. If we make a repeating pattern of $N$ varying masses, the system will have $N$ bands of ...