What is

Wave - Explanation and definition of waves

What is a wave

A wave is defined as a physical phenomenon by which propagates energy without matter from one point to another in space through a solid, liquid, gaseous medium or through vacuum. Earthquakes, the sound of a guitar, the light coming from the sun or the sea waves are natural phenomena where the waves play a key role.

In order that a wave occurs is essential and necessary that a disturbance it occurs in a system, ie is necessary that a change in some physical property of the system occurs as pressure, temperature, density ... which produces the initial vibration transmitted along a region of space in form of energy.

Imagine you have a rope anchored to a point, if at the other end throw firmly we are producing a disturbance or impulse that makes the end of the initial string vibrate, propagating this vibration to the other anchored end, in this example we can see how the disturbance has created the vibration transmitted by the rope in form of energy.

When we throw a stone into a pond we observe how the initial shock produces waves around, in this example the initial disturbance has been the impact of the stone which has spread through the water from one region to another of the pond.

Wave characteristics.

All waves of nature have a number of characteristics or own parameters, knowledge of these parameters allow us to know and predict the behavior of the wave:

  • Amplitude (A) - represents the distance between the highest point known as ridge and the horizontal axis of the wave, the amplitude is directly linked to the intensity, so that a greater range of sound wave greatest the intensity or decibels, a greater range of seismic wave greatest energy is transported.

  • Wavelength (λ) - represents the distance between two crests or troughs of a wave, this parameter is inversely linked with the energy that carries the wave, lower wavelength more energy is associated.

  • Frequency (F) - Represents the number of oscillations made by the wave in a set period of time.

  • Period (T) - represents the time required for a wave to complete an oscillation.

  • Propagation speed - it is the distance that run the wave per unit of time and its value depends on the properties of the medium that crosses as density, temperature, pressure ...

Finally the wave function is a mathematical representation through which we can calculate and know all the properties and characteristics of the waves and the positions and movements of each of the particles of the medium in specific moments during propagation.

The study of all these parameters allowed us to know and deepen this physical phenomenon allowing the development of wireless telecommunications, such as mobile phones, radio, TV or GPS, on the other hand waves are fundamental for the creation various instruments like sonar to help ships navigate safely, ultrasound machines used to perform ultrasounds in the medical field or speed detectors used in radar.

Types and classification of waves

We can classify the wide range of existing waves in terms of:

According to the mediyms by which they spread:

  • Electromagnetic - are those that propagate through the vacuum, eg light, radio waves, microwaves or infrared are examples of electromagnetic waves.

  • Mechanical - Are those that need of a solid, liquid or gaseous medium to spread, such as the sound travels through the air, seismic waves travel through the Earth's crust and the sea waves propagate through water.

  • Gravity - This type of waves do not travel by any medium because they are the result of the space-time deformation according to Einstein's relativity theory.

According to the direction of propagation:

  • Transverse - they are those that propagate vertically or perpendicular to the initial disturbance.

  • Longitudinal - they are those that propagate horizontally or parallel to the initial disturbance.

According to the plane of vibration:

  • One-dimensional - are those that spread in one dimension of space, for example the resulting wave by stretching a rope.

  • Two-dimensional - they are those that propagate in two spatial dimensions, such as waves produced by dropping a drop on a glass of water.

  • Three-dimensional - are those that spread in the 3 dimensional space, such as sound waves of lightning.

Now that you know what is a wave, did you know that bats use a biosonor based onsound waves by which emit high-frequency sounds to navigate?

what is a wave