Physics Waves

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General properties of waves

  • Light travels as waves
  • Waves can be described by their amplitude, frequency or wavelength 
  • The speed of a wave can be calculated by frequency or wavelength
  • Waves are vibrations that transfer energy from place to place without matter being transferred
  • Some waves must travel through a substance which is known as the medium
  • Sound waves and seismic waves are like this
  • Other waves don't need to travel through a substance
  • Visible light, infrared waves, microwaves and other types of electromagnetic radiation are like this
  • Electrical and magnetic fields vibrate as the waves travel
  • Transverse waves: the oscillations (vibrations) are at right angles to the direction of travel and energy transfer
  • Light and other types of electromagnetic radiation are transverse waves
  • Longitudinal waves: the oscillations are along the same direction as the direction of travel and energy transfer
  • Sound waves and waves in a stretched spring are longitudinal waves
  • Longitudinal waves show areas of compression and rarefraction
  • Amplitude: maximum disturbance from its undisturbed position
  • Wavelength: distance between a point on one wave and the same point on the next
  • Frequency: number of waves produced by a source each second
  • Wave length in m/s = frequency in Hz x wavelength in metres
  • Waves can be refracted and diffracted 
  • Sound waves and light waves change speed when they pass across the boundary between two substances with different densities, like air and glass
  • This causes them to change direction which is called refraction
  • Refraction doesn't happen if the waves cross the boundary…


Tilly - Team GR




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