Light and sound waves explained - HENRY'S BUSINESS DRIVE

Monday, October 22, 2018

Light and sound waves explained

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There are many different kinds of waves.  Waves can carry a little energy or a lot.  They can be short or long.  They can be rare or frequent.  They can travel fast or slow.  Sound waves, light waves, X-rays, microwaves, and ocean waves are but a few examples.  All waves, however, share certain basic characteristics.
All waves have amplitude, wavelength, and frequency.

Some waves are very high, while others are barely noticeable.  The distance the wave rises depends on the amplitude of the wave.  Amplitude is the maximum distance the medium (the material through which a wave travels) moves away from its rest position.  The higher the wave moves up-and-down as it vibrates, the larger the amplitude of the resulting waves.

The distance between two consecutive (one after another) crests or troughs of a wave is called the wavelength.  The wavelength can be measured from any point on a wave as long as it is measured to the same point on the next wave.

The number of complete waves, or complete cycles, per unit of time is called the frequency.  Because every complete wave has one crest and one trough, you can think of the frequency as the number of crests or troughs produced per unit time.  The unit used to measure wave frequency is called the hertz (Hz).  The frequency of a wave depends on the frequency at which its source is vibrating.  Frequency, which is often used to describe waves, is an important characteristic.  Frequency is used to distinguish one color of light from another, as well as one sound from another.  For example, red light is different from blue light because red light has a lower frequency.  A dog can hear a whistle that you cannot hear because dogs can hear sounds at higher frequencies than humans can.

Properties of Sound.
There are millions of different sounds in everyday life.  Each sound having certain characteristics that make it unique.  Think about the many sounds you hear everyday.  How you hear and describe a sound depends on the physical characteristics of the sound wave..

Frequency and Pitch.
Certain sounds are described as high, such as those produced by a piccolo, or low, such as those produced by a bass drum.  A description of a sound as high or low is known as the pitch of the sound.  The pitch of a sound depends on how fast the particles of a medium (the material through which a wave travels) vibrate.  So the pitch of a sound depends on the number of waves produced in a given time.
Key point here:  Sound waves that have a high frequency are heard as sounds of high pitch.  A violin produces high-pitched sounds.  Sound waves that have a low frequency are heard as sounds of low pitch.  A tuba produces low-pitched sounds.

Frequency is an especially important characteristic of sound because the ear can respond to only certain frequencies.  The normal human ear is capable of detecting from about 20 to 20,000 vibrations per second, or hertz.
Here is a helpful link for more information on sound waves:

Properties of Light.
What does sunlight have in common with the X-rays used in a doctor's office?  Are you surprised to learn that they are both waves?  They're not matter waves that you can hear or feel.  They are electromagnetic waves.  Electromagnetic waves disturb electric and magnetic fields.  These waves can be transmitted through a vacuum (space free of particles).  They do not depend on particles of matter.

Light is an electromagnetic wave.  Light from the sun can travel to the Earth through the vacuum of space.  Light can also travel through air across your room.  Although you might not realize it, you are constantly surrounded by thousands of electromagnetic waves everyday.  Sunlight (visible light) and X-rays are only two types of electromagnetic waves.  Other types are radio waves, infrared rays, ultraviolet rays, and gamma rays.

Here is a helpful link for more information on light waves:

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