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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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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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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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? ...
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418 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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764 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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197 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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589 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 ...
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How to model the form of a surface water wave?

Normal surface water waves, as generated by wind, do not have sine form but wave peak is higher and shorter than wave trough with different wave steepness. What parameters characterize such a surface ...
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What's the optimal shape for a continuous Galilean Cannon?

A Galilean Cannon is a toy similar to the famous basketball-and-tennis-ball demonstration. You take a tennis ball, balance it on top a basketball, and drop them both. The tennis ball will bounce up to ...
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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 ...
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Shape of wall's deformation wave caused by baseball's impact

Clicking through this year's top sports pictures, I stumbled upon this one. I was wondering about the shape the baseball is leaving on the wall. What phenomenon causes this peculiar shape? Why is ...
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203 views

Why do I hear voices when I touch my turntable needle?

So I was trying to figure out the reason why my old (and probably sufficiently damaged) needle on my phonograph (turntable) was not working like it was a little while ago. With my headphones on, I ...
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How do EM waves propagate?

I have read about this and what I surmise is that when charged particles such as electrons accelerate they produce time-varying electric fields. These E-fields produce H-fields and the process goes on....
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Why does a wave actually diffract?

I know that waves diffract around a slit and this is due to the Huygens-Fresnel principle. But I never understand this in an intuitive wave that why does a wave become a spherical wave front at the ...
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Difference Between Fraunhofer and Fresnel Diffraction

What is the difference between Fraunhofer diffraction and Fresnel diffraction? I mean diffraction is just bending of light waves or waves in general around a point. So how can there be two types of ...
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Can polarized light be unpolarized again?

I was just wondering if there could be a process that could unpolarize polarazied light. Is that possible?
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Is speed of sound really constant?

Does not speed of sound actually depend on the frequency and/or amplitude of the waves? If so, why it is constant?
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Does a wave experiencing a total internal reflection penetrate the medium in any way?

Let me explain my concern usingn this picture: At the point of total internal reflection does a fraction of the wave get into medium 2? I would imagine it should happen because of the uncertainty ...
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722 views

Huygens wave theory not applicable to lasers or parallel beams of light?

According to Huygens wave theory, every point on a wavefront acts as a secondary source of waves. Using this principle we can never have pretty narrow parallel beams of light right? Like lasers? ...
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Box normalization

Whenever we study free fields, the solutions of these fields (or particles, whatever feels most comfortable) are always given by plane waves. The dispersion-relation $\omega=\omega(k)$ will of course ...
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380 views

What was Newton's own explanation of Newton's rings?

What was Newton's own explanation of Newton's rings? Newton advocated a corpuscular theory of light, but his rings would most conveniently be explained by a wave theory. How did he explain his own ...
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How do traveling waves pass through a standing wave node, if the node doesn't move?

I'm having trouble with the explanation that a standing wave in a string is the superposition of traveling waves. The nodes in the diagram above are points where the particles of the string's ...
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227 views

Is Huygen's Principle Axiomatic?

Is Huygens Principle just a fundamental way to understand light? It always seemed to me that it was somehow "derived" or that it should be-but is it simply a well-founded theory?
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What is light, and how can it travel in a vacuum forever in all directions at once without a medium?

I know there are many questions that are similar (maybe identical?). I am not a physicist nor a student - I am just interested in physics and have been watching many physics channels on youtube ...
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Phase and Group Velocity of Electromagnetic Waves

Moving charges produce oscillating electric and magnetic fields -we have an electromagnetic wave. In terms of moving charges or at the level of charges, what is phase velocity and group velocity of ...
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486 views

What is a wave?

I was watching an outtake of Prof. Brian Cox talking to a tv producer about "gravity waves". Their discussion got a bit side-tracked, because the non-scientist didn't seem to understand what a wave "...
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393 views

How to simulate a crashing wave? [closed]

I'd like to create a very rough animation of a wave crashing on a beach. I'm guessing it would have to be a particle simulator, where you code in the forces between the particles and then integrate ...
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142 views

Can gravitational waves resonate?

Can gravitational waves resonate? - Perhaps by creating standing wave interference in a cavity? Could that feasibly happen either in nature or by engineering?
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Does a square wave “smooth out” in the air?

I understand that playing a square wave from speakers cannot produce a PERFECTLY sharp division between compression and rarefaction. But it's sharp enough to sound distinctly different from a sine ...
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375 views

The Mysterious Reverb in a Jar of Hair Gel

I have a small jar filled with hair styling gel (or, as it calls itself: Ultra Gel-Wax). The jar is cylindrical(with the height being less than the width), has an unscreweable lid and is made of ...
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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 ...
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417 views

Will a wave packet undergo dispersion when traveling down a hanging rope?

Suppose I tie one end of a rope to my ceiling and the other end to a spot on my floor directly underneath it. Because the rope has some mass, the tension varies along the rope, from highest at the ...
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Wave packet in curved spacetime

It is known that the classical equation of motion for a scalar field wave packet on a curved spacetime background gives the geodesic trajectory (the e.o.m. is $(\nabla_\mu \nabla^\mu + m^2) \Phi=0$). ...
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475 views

The role of metric in the Wave Equation

The wave equation is often written in the form $$(\partial^2_t-\Delta)u=0,$$ involving the Laplace-Beltrami operator $\Delta$. However, the Laplace-Beltrami operator $\Delta$ is defined only in the ...
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How to reproduce highway vibration?

I would like to test my hardware under vibration that can appear on a highway gantry. If someone has a model of such vibration. i.e period and amplitude. In my lab I have a motor that can be ...
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Why are electromagnetic waves called waves even though they don't travel through a medium?

If waves are defined as the oscillation of a medium, why are electromagnetic waves called waves as they do not need a medium to travel through?
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Liquid wave faster than sound in the above gas: possibility implications

I recently heard that tsunamis (meaning "harbour wave") can travel over 800 kilometres per hour (500 mph), not so far from the speed of sound in the air. May it happen, in general, that a wave in a ...
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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 ...
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216 views

Multiple channels of information in single electromagnetic wave?

I'm trying to understand how can multiple radio stations transmit information just by transmitting using different frequency. The way I understand it all those different frequency waves add up to a ...
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Why are sound waves adiabatic?

I want to know why we can treat sound waves as an adiabatic process. Precisely, I know that pressure and density vibrations occur so fast that molecules have no time to exchange energy (I might be ...
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How to Make RF Waves Visible

I understand RF (Radio Frequency) Waves are electromagnetic waves and a mode of communication for wireless technologies, such as cordless phones, radar, ham radio, GPS, and television broadcasts. Most ...
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Is it possible to use “negative sound waves” to “cancel out” a sound to create silence?

I saw youtube videos that claimed to do this, although I'm quite certain the videos just excluded sound and lied. However, I am wondering if the physics of this is actually possible - to create a ...
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Why doesn't the magnetic field polarize when polarizing light?

If the magnetic field doesn't polarize does it follow the electric field path of propagation? or does it vanish?
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Why do we must initially assume that the wavefunction is complex?

The sound waves are real, and they can interfere, so corresponding apparat may be used in quantum mechanics. We also may use the time dependence in a form of orthogonal matrix multiplying the initial ...
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Galilean transformation of wave equation

I have this general wave equation: \begin{equation} \dfrac{\partial^2 \psi}{\partial x^2}+\dfrac{\partial^2 \psi}{\partial y^2}-\dfrac{1}{c^2}\dfrac{\partial^2 \psi}{\partial t^2}=0 \end{equation} ...
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373 views

Wave with mass transport?

I don't think this question has been asked on this forum before (at least I didn't find it). In the case of a tsunami, an earthquake generates a wave which will travel with the sea/ocean as the ...
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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. ...
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863 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 ...
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What happens to sound waves?

I apologize if this is a naive question, but I never really learned about this. I'm curious as to what happens to sound waves after they are "used"? For example, if I say something to you verbally, ...
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What are the normal modes of a vertical rope?

Closely related to this question on traveling waves on a hanging rope, I would also like to know what the normal modes are on a rope that hangs vertically, fixed at both ends. Tension in the rope ...