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The Nature of Waves

Wave is a traveling disturbance.

Wave carries energy from place to place.
Wave Motion- any disturbance propagated in a
medium such as string, air, etc.
Types of waves:
1. Mechanical waves –waves that are produced
in matter such as solid, liquid and gas
2. Electromagnetic waves- waves that are
produced in electric and magnetic fields and
can propagate even in vacuum or empty
Types of Mechanical Waves
1. Transverse waves- waves which occur when
the particles of the medium vibrate
perpendicularly to the direction of the wave
Ex. Waves produced on a vibrating string
Node, N – pt. of no vibration
Antinode,A- pt. of maximum vibration
A A Direction of wave propagation
2. Longitudinal waves- waves which occur when the
particles of the medium vibrate parallel to the
direction of wave propagation. They are also called
compressional waves.
Ex. Sound wave

Compression or Condensation- region where particles are near each other

Rarefaction- the region where the particles are far apart from each other
Properties of a wave:
1. Speed or Velocity (v)- the distance traveled per unit
time. (cm/sec, m/sec, ft/sec)
2. Frequency (f)- the number of similar waves which pass
through a point per unit time or number of vibrations
made by a particle per unit time. (vps, cps, hertz or hz)
3. Wavelength (λ )- the length of one complete wave
between two points which are in phase. (cm, m, ft)
4. Period (T)- the time for a complete wave to pass
through a point. (sec)
5. Amplitude- the maximum displacement of the
vibrating particle from the equilibrium position.
Transverse waves
Transverse waves

A transverse wave is one in which the disturbance is

perpendicular to the direction of travel of the wave.
Examples: waves on a guitar string.
Longitudinal Waves
Longitudinal Waves

Longitudinal wave is one in which the disturbance is parallel

to the line of travel of the wave.
Example: Sound wave in air is a longitudinal wave.
Water Waves

Water waves are partly transverse and longitudinal.

Periodic Waves
Periodic waves are waves that repeat.
Amplitude, Wavelength, and Period

The amplitude, A is the maximum disturbance.

The wavelength, λ is the horizontal length of one cycle of the
The period, T is the time required for one complete up/down
cycle of the wave.

Frequency is the number of waves per unit time.

Wave Speed
Wave Speed
Frequency of Vibrating String / Wire
Consider a vibrating string:
v v
2L N N
n segment segment

Velocity of Transverse Wave W

(for vibrating string)

Frequency, f
m n T
L f  (string)
2L m
Velocity of Transverse Wave
(for vibrating wire)
n T
f  (wire)
2 T dL 
d 
• n corresponds to the “nth harmonic frequency
• nth harmonic frequency mode corresponds to
the “nth overtone +1”
A string vibrates in the 12 th harmonic
n segment = 12
A string vibrates in the 10 th overtone
n segment = 10  1  11
A string vibrates in 10 nodes
n segment = 10  1  9
The Speed of a Traveling Wave
16-1 Transverse Waves

Two snapshots of the wave: at time t=0, and then

at time t=Δt. As the wave moves to the right at
velocity ν, the entire curve shifts a distance Δx
during Δt.
Mathematical Description of a Wave
Wave function for a sinusoidal wave
y  f x, t  wave function that describes the wave. This gives the
displacement (from equilibrium) of any particle at any time

y 𝒙, 𝒕 = 𝒚𝒎 𝐬𝐢𝐧(𝒌𝒙 − ω𝒕) Sinusoidal wave moving in (+) x direction

y 𝒙, 𝒕 = 𝒚𝒎 𝐬𝐢𝐧(𝒌𝒙 + ω𝒕) Sinusoidal wave moving in (-) x direction

also v  f Where:
V - wave speed (m/s, cm/s)
  2f ω- angular frequency (rad/sec)
2 k – wave number (rad/m)
k λ – wavelength (m,cm)
 𝒚𝒎 - amplitude
4. A certain guitar string 50 cm long at its fixed points sounds an A-
note (440 Hz) when plucked. Where one must put his finger to
play a C-note (528 Hz)
5. A transverse sine wave with an amplitude of 2.50 mm and a
wavelength of 1.8 m travels from left to right along a long,
horizontal, stretched string with a speed of 36 m/s. Take the origin
at the left of the undisturbed string. At time t= 0 the left end of the
string has its maximum upward displacement.
(a) What are the frequency, angular frequency and wave number of
the wave?
(b) What is the equation for y(x,t) that describes the wave?
(c) What is y(t) for the particle at the left end of the string?
(d) What is y(t) for a particle 1.35 m to the right end of the origin?
(e) What is the maximum magnitude of transverse velocity of any
particle of string?
(f) Find the transverse displacement and the transverse velocity of a
particle 1.35 m to the right of the origin at time t= 0.0625s.
6. A sinusoidal wave is traveling on the string with speed 40
cm/s. The displacement of the particles of the string at x = 10
cm varies with time according to y = (5.0 cm) sin[1.0 –
(4.0𝑠 −1 )𝑡 ]. The linear density of the string is 4.0 g/cm . What
a) the frequency
b) the wavelength of the wave
c) write the wave equation
d) the amplitude
e) wave number
f) angular speed
g) tension in the string
h) give the equation for 𝑉𝑦 (𝑥,𝑡) and 𝑎𝑦 (𝑥,𝑡)