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  • Created by: Chaitali
  • Created on: 04-04-12 09:10

Light travels as waves. Waves can be described by their amplitude, wavelength and frequency. The speed of a wave can be calculated from its frequency and wavelength.

What are waves?

Waves are vibrations that transfer energy from place to place without matter (solid, liquid or gas) being transferred. Think of a Mexican wave in a football crowd: the wave moves around the stadium, while each spectator stays in their seat only moving up then down when it's their turn.

Some waves must travel through a substance. The substance is known as the medium and it can be solid, liquid or gas. Sound waves and seismic waves are like this. They must travel through a medium, and it is the medium that vibrates as the waves travel through.

Other waves do not need to travel through a substance. They may be able to travel through a medium, but they do not have to. Visible light, infrared rays,microwaves and other types of electromagnetic radiation are like this. They can travel through empty space. Electrical and magnetic fields vibrate as the waves travel.

Longitudinal and transverse waves

You should be able to describe the characteristics of transverse and longitudinal waves.

Transverse waves

In 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. All types of electromagnetic waves travel at the same speed through a vacuum, such as through space.

Water waves and S waves (a type of seismic wave) are also transverse waves.

Longitudinal waves

In 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. P waves (relatively fast moving longitudinal seismic waves that travel through liquids and solids) are also longitudinal waves.

Longitudinal waves show area of compression and rarefaction. In the animation, the areas of compression are where the parts of the spring are close together, while the areas of rarefaction are where they are far apart.

Amplitude, wavelength and frequency

You should understand what is meant by the amplitude, wavelength and frequency of a wave.


As waves travel, they set up patterns of disturbance. The amplitude of a wave is its maximum disturbance from its undisturbed position. Take care: the amplitude is not the distance between the top and bottom of a wave.


Amplitude and wavelength


The wavelength of a wave is the distance between a point on one wave and the same point on the next wave. It is often easiest to measure this from the crest of one wave to the crest of the next wave, but it doesn't matter where as long as it is the same point in each wave.


The frequency of a wave is the number of waves produced by a source each second. It is also the number of waves that…




Basically copied off bitesize.

Miss KHP


These are fantastic resources to help you understand waves. Visdulise what a wavelength and amplitidue looks like on a wave so that you get it right in the exam. Know the difference between refraction, difraction and reflection.



Can we have some practise questions, with answers? (Make them as hard as you can plz)






*practice mate



Jk but great resource mate :P






an amazing resource 5 star rating

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