Questions tagged [waves]

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 does the speed of sound decrease at high altitudes although the air density decreases?

I understand that the speed of sound is inversely proportional to the density of the medium as shown here and as answered for this question. The problem now is that the speed of sound in air actually ...
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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 ...
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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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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 ...
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Why don't we percieve chords like we perceive the mix of two light waves? [duplicate]

Why is the combination of two light waves (red, yellow) percieved as the same color as the arithmetic mean of their frequencies (orange) while we percieve two musical notes at the same time as just ...
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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 which ...
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Why can a wave be expressed with a sine function?

I see many expressions which express waves with the sine function like $y=\sin(kx-\omega t)$. Waves really look similar to the shapes of a sine or cosine function, but does this guarantee that ...
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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 ...
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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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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 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 ...
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Why is it difficult for water waves to cancel each other?

I have read that destructive interference between water waves always leads to the creation of smaller waves which eventually die out. Why, in particular for water waves, it is hard to cancel each ...
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Why are cosine and sine functions used when representing a signal or a wave? [closed]

Actually, in the mathematics sine and cosine functions are defined based on right angled triangles. But how will the representation of a wave or signal say based on these trigonometric functions (we ...
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How are overtones produced by plucking a string?

I read the following from wikipedia: When a string is plucked normally, the ear tends to hear the fundamental frequency most prominently, but the overall sound is also colored by the presence ...
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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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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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Why is it necessary for an object to have a bigger size than the wavelength of light in order for us to see it?

I keep hearing this rule that an object must have a bigger size than the wavelength of light in order for us to see it, and though I don't have any professional relationship with physics, I want to ...
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Why does sound not move through a wall? [duplicate]

I'm learning a bit about sound and was wondering: If the speed of sound is determined by the amount of matter the source is surrounded with, why doesn't it go through a wall? Example: Speed of ...
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Does the electromagnetic wave have a lateral extension?

An electromagnetic wave is typically shown with this schematic (taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_radiation) We see graphically from the schematic that the amplitude of E and B ...
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Will tsunami waves travel forever if there was no land?

If there was no land for tsunami waves to collide with, can the waves travel around the globe for forever?
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Can low-frequency electromagnetic radiation be ionizing?

I've read from several sources that electromagnetic radiation begins to have an "ionizing" effect right around the time the frequency passes the uv spectrum and into x-ray/gamma ray spectrum. [1] [2] [...
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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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What is meant by "gravity waves we see at sea surface"?

I've read in an answer to this question, of which I think that it was a very good, but somewhat long one, (I include the context in which it was written): Let me expand this point. When this ...
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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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What exactly is meant by the wavelength of a photon?

I've been thinking about this for quite some time, and from looking online I haven't found a satisfying answer. Lots of photons, such as visible-light photons have very small wavelength (which from ...
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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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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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If sound is a longitudinal wave, why can we hear it if our ears aren't aligned with the propagation direction?

If a sound wave travels to the right, then the air molecules inside only vibrate left and right, because sound is a longitudinal wave. This is only a one-dimensional motion. If our ears are oriented ...
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What does it mean to make a sound twice as loud? [duplicate]

Giancoli Textbook question: To make a given sound twice as loud, how should a musician change the intensity of the sound? The given answer is: "Increase the intensity by a factor of 10." I don't ...
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How to determine the direction of a wave propagation?

In the textbook, it said a wave in the form $y(x, t) = A\cos(\omega t + \beta x + \varphi)$ propagates along negative $x$ direction and $y(x, t) = A\cos(\omega t - \beta x + \varphi)$ propagates along ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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What is the physical significance of the imaginary part when plane waves are represented as $e^{i(kx-\omega t)}$?

I've read that plane wave equations can be represented in various forms, like sine or cosine curves, etc. What is the part of the imaginary unit $i$ when plane waves are represented in the form $$f(x) ...
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Wave reflection and open end boundary condition intuition

I need to understand one seemingly simple thing in wave mechanics, so any help is much appreciated! When a pulse on a string travels to the right toward an open end(like a massless ring that is free ...
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How are beats formed when frequencies combine?

I know amplitudes cancel (destructive) or combine (constructive) as per image below: (Source) But how do frequencies cancel out or combine? For some context: a question from my textbook A song 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 played ...
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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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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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How do EM waves propagate?

I have read about how electromagnetic waves propagate and what I surmise is that when charged particles such as electrons accelerate they produce time-varying electric fields. These electric fields ...
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The relationship between the energy and amplitude of a wave? Derivation?

From multiple online sources I read that $$E \propto A^2$$ but when I mentioned this in class, my teacher told me I was wrong and that it was directly proportional to amplitude instead. As far as I ...
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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 ...
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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, ...
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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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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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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 magnetic ...
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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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When vibrating a string, how exactly is the vibration inverted to create an identical wave traveling in the opposite direction?

I am currently trying to understand standing waves. The key to the phenomenon is that: $$A\sin(kx+\omega t) + A\sin(kx-\omega t)=2A\sin(kx)\cos(\omega t)$$ The shape of $2A\sin(kx)\cos(\omega t)$ is ...
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Can elementary particles be explained adequately by a wave-only model?

I have been watching quantum mechanics documentaries and reading a layman's book called "The Quantum Universe". I believe I understand why the double slit experiments exclude a particle only model. ...
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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 the relationship between relativity and the Doppler effect?

My sister just watched this video about space contraction (Spanish), and asked me if this is related to the Doppler effect. In the clip they also introduce the idea that a bat would be affected by ...

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