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Illustration 17.1: Wave Types

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The four animations represent a particle description of three waves on a string and a wave on a spring (position is given in meters and time is given in seconds). For the waves on a string the motion of the red circle is shown as a function of time. Restart.

Animation 1 and Animation 2 depict transverse waves (Animation 1 shows a wave pulse and Animation 2 shows the creation of a sinusoidal traveling wave). The waving is in the y direction, while the wave propagation (the direction of the wave velocity) is in the x direction. If you have ever done "the wave" at a football or a basketball game you have been a part of a transverse wave! ("The wave" is a special example of a traveling wave called a pulse, in that every part of the medium that supports the wave does not always wave.) Note that the individual particles that make up the string go up and down, yet do not move in the x direction (just as during the wave you just stand up and then sit down). Watch the red particle in each animation and also view the graph showing the red particle's motion in the y direction.

Animation 3 represents a longitudinal wave. An example of a longitudinal wave is sound. In a longitudinal wave, the waving of the medium (here the string particles) is in the direction of the propagation of the wave. Watch the red particle in this animation and also view the graph showing the red particle's motion in the x direction. Notice that it oscillates back and forth instead of up and down. Animation 4 represents a wave on a spring. Is it a transverse or longitudinal wave? It is both! Can you tell why this is so?

In Animation 5 water waves are depicted by showing the individual motion of the water molecules (position is given in meters and time is given in seconds). What type of wave is depicted by the animation?

Illustration authored by Morten Brydensholt, Wolfgang Christian, and Mario Belloni.
Script authored by Morten Brydensholt, Wolfgang Christian, and Mario Belloni.

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