Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What is a Wave?

Waves

What is a Wave?

A wave can be described as a disturbance that travels through a medium from one location to another location.It is made up of periodic motion,which is a motion repeated at regular intervals.One example of a periodic motion is the pendulum bob moving left to right and back to left.

It is thought of as a traveling disturbance.It travels energy from one place to another place transferring energy in the process.The source of any wave is a vibration or oscillation.

For example:

When a pebble is dropped in a pond, a few circular ripples, the disturbances in this case,move outward on the surface of the water.

When the slinky is stretched from end to end and is held at rest, it assumes a natural position known as the equilibrium or rest position.

To introduce a wave into the slinky, the first particle is displaced or moved from its equilibrium or rest position. The particle might be moved upwards or downwards, forwards or backwards; but once moved, it is returned to its original equilibrium or rest position.

The act of moving the first coil of the slinky in a given direction and then returning it to its equilibrium position creates a disturbance in the slinky.

We can then observe this disturbance moving through the slinky from one end to the other. If the first coil of the slinky is given a single back-and-forth vibration, then we call the observed motion of the disturbance through the slinky a slinky pulse.

A pulse is a single disturbance moving through a medium from one location to another location. However, if the first coil of the slinky is continuously and periodically vibrated in a back-and-forth manner, we would observe a repeating disturbance moving within the slinky which endures over some prolonged period of time.

The repeating and periodic disturbance which moves through a medium from one location to another is referred to as a wave.