# Tagged Questions

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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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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?
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### 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 ...
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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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### 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 ...
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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 ...
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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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?
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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. ...
263 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 ...
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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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### 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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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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, ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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 ...
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### 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?
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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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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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, ...
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### 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 ...
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 ...
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### 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 ...
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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 ...
8k views