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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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 ...
66
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9k views

Why doesn't the motion of a car affect the frequency of radio stations?

When we go in a car and tune to an FM radio station, why doesn't our motion disturb the frequency? Like the Doppler effect?
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Why do travelling waves continue after amplitude sum = 0?

My professor asked an interesting question at the end of the last class, but I can't figure out the answer. The question is this (recalled from memory): There are two travelling wave pulses moving in ...
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Why don't choir voices destructively interfere so that we can't hear them?

Sound is propagated by waves. Waves can interfere. Suppose there are two tenors standing next to each other and each singing a continuous middle-C. Will it be the case that some people in the ...
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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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Why aren't the lengths of the bars on a toy glockenspiel proportional to the wavelengths?

As you might already know, frequency of musical notes is arranged in a such a way that if, for example, an A note has frequency of $x$, another A note which is placed one octave higher would produce ...
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The speed of sound is a single value yet the speed of atoms is distributed over many values. Does the sound wave front smear out?

Sound waves travel with constant speed, but air molecules that transfer action move with different speeds than the ones described by Maxwell distribution. Why does the sound wave not smear out and ...
42
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7answers
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Why don't two musical instruments sometimes generate destructive interference?

I'm an electrical engineer, and I understand wave propagation, interference patterns, and so on. But I'm missing something basic, so perhaps my understanding isn't as good as I believe. I'll show my ...
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7answers
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Why is it so easy to create audible sound?

Context Why is it so easy to create audible sounds in life with basically anything? Putting your cup of coffee on a table comes with a sound Turning a page of your book comes with a sound Even ...
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2answers
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Pouring oil on choppy water to calm it , does it work and if so how?

Near where I live, local fishermen often bring cans of castor oil with them, to calm the water around their boats, if they feel bad weather is due. They claim this method of sea calming works, (...
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What do we see while watching light? Waves or particles?

I'm trying to understand quantum physics. I'm pretty familiar with it but I can't decide what counts as observing to cause particle behave (at least when it's about lights). So the question is what do ...
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Speed of sound at temperatures below 0 °C

How can the speed of sound be calculated for temperatures below 0 °C (down to -40 °C)? Does the calculation $v=331\ \frac{m}{s} + 0.6 \frac{m}{s°C} \times T$ still hold (where T's unit is °...
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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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8answers
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Since cables carry electricity moving at the speed of light, why aren't computer networks much faster?

Why can't cables used for computer networking transfer data really fast, say at the speed of light? I ask this because electricity travels at the speed of light. Take Ethernet cables for example, I ...
28
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9answers
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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 do tsunami waves begin with the water flowing away from shore?

A sign of a tsunami is that the water rushes away from the shore, then comes back to higher levels. It seems that waves should be both + and - polarized and that some tsunamis should go in the ...
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2answers
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Are gravitational waves longitudinal or transverse?

Waves are generally classified as either transverse or longitudinal depending on the they way the propagated quantity is oriented with respect to the direction of propagation. Then what is a ...
25
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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?
25
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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 is the angle of the wake of a duck constant?

Why is the angle of a wake of a duck constant? And why are some conditions on the water depth necessary? I realize that this question turns up in google searches, but I did not see a good discussion. ...
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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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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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Is the existence of electromagnetic standing waves dependent on the observers reference frame?

If I take two plane EM waves travelling in opposite direction e.g. $E = E_0 \sin(kx-\omega t)$ and $E=E_0 \sin (kx + \omega t)$, they sum to give a standing wave with a time-averaged Poynting vector ...
20
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859 views

What determines the speed of waves in water?

While I was walking my dog this morning, I passed over a canal filled with boats, barges, and kayaks all of different masses and moving at different speeds. I noticed that all of these vessels left ...
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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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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 ...
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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 ...
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Why does medium not affect the frequency of sound?

I read in various places that frequency does not change with medium. Instead, wavelength changes in different mediums due to a change in speed. I understand why speed changes with medium, but I'm not ...
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Can light emit light?

How and why does the Huygens principle really work? I mean, does it always work? The Huygens principle: Every point on a wave-front may be considered a source of secondary spherical wavelets ...
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Physics of how the cochlea isolates frequencies along its length?

Can anyone explain the separation of frequencies along the basilar membrane of the cochlea please? (equations would be nice) I understand it being related to the resistance caused by fluid in the ...
17
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6answers
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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 ...
17
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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 can't the human voice produce a Shepard tone?

Audio of a shepard tone on youtube. So what is a Shepard tone? A Shepard tone, named after Roger Shepard, is a sound consisting of a superposition of sine waves separated by octaves. When ...
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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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Why no longitudinal electromagnetic waves?

According to wikipedia and other sources, there are no longitudinal electromagnetic waves in free space. I'm wondering why not. Consider an oscillating charged particle as a source of EM waves. Say ...
16
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Momentum of transverse waves on a string

In general, if a wave carries energy density $u$ with velocity $v$, it also carries momentum density $u/v$. I've seen this explicitly shown for electromagnetic waves and (longitudinal) sound waves. ...
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Why and how is sound produced when two objects hit each other?

When two objects collide and undergo a partially inelastic collision (so every one we experience in every-day life), they rebound to a certain degree, but kinetic energy is not conserved. Thus, the ...
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What is a standing wave?

I'm a highschool sophomore, bear this is mind when answering this question, in other words, the answer doesn't need to be in total layman terms, but it should be understandable by an applied ...
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Can light waves cause beats?

My question is pretty brief. When two sound waves of nearly same frequencies interfere, we get beats. But, I have not observed something like that happening in the case of light. In fact, most of the ...
15
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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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First-order wave equation: Why is its presence not common?

The (one-dimensional) wave equation is the second-order linear partial differential equation $$\frac{\partial^2 f}{\partial x^2}=\frac{1}{v^2}\frac{\partial^2 f}{\partial t^2}\tag{second order PDE}$$ ...
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1answer
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Why are ultrasounds used for producing images of body organs?

Low frequency waves can penetrate better than high frequency waves, then why are high frequency waves used in ultrasounds for sharper images? Similar is the case in detection of flaws in metal blocks....
14
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3answers
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Alternatives to electromagnetism for communication?

It seems, from my (weak) understanding of the standard model that the only field suitable for long range communication is the one we actually use, electromagnetism. (Gravity waves could be used as ...
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What is a general definition of impedance?

Impedance is a concept that shows up in any area of physics concerning waves. In transmission lines, impedance is the ratio of voltage to current. In optics, index of refraction plays a role similar ...
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Why are electromagnetic waves not able to pass through a hole with a diameter smaller than the wavelength? [duplicate]

I am doing research on Faraday cages for school, and I want to know how it works. Faraday cages can have holes in them, and if the diameter is smaller than the wavelength of waves you want to block, ...
13
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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}{...
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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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Rope waves with a twist

In the picture you see a person walking a slackline. A slackline is a tensioned flatband of polyester. Typical tensions are between 1 kN to 15 kN depending on the length of the line. The lines are ...
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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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Don't all waves transport mass?

How do matter waves not transport mass? I know that matter waves are associated with moving sub-atomic particles(which is insignificant for macroscopic particles). If a wave is associated with a ...