Transverse Wave: Definition, Parts & Examples

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  • 0:01 The Power of Waves
  • 0:58 Features of Transverse Waves
  • 1:42 Time Period vs. Wavelength
  • 2:29 Examples of Transverse Waves
  • 3:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

This lesson will define transverse waves, discuss the names for various features and parts of a transverse wave, and go through some examples of transverse waves in the world. A short quiz will follow.

The Power of Waves

Waves are powerful and important to study. Earthquake waves can cause cities to crumble, and the waves on a beach turn rock into fine sand. Understanding waves is definitely important because they're everywhere in nature, but you might not have known that they're also important for our own survival.

Transverse waves are waves where the vibration is at 90 degrees to the direction the wave is moving. That might be hard to picture, which is why slinkys are amazing, or at least one of the reasons! A transverse wave is what you get when you move a slinky from side to side on a table.

The other type of wave is called a longitudinal wave. A longitudinal wave is a wave where the vibration is parallel to the direction the wave is moving. That's what you get if you push a slinky along its length, sending a pulse down it. It looks something like this:

Features of Transverse Waves

There are various features we can label on a transverse wave, as shown here:

A crest (or peak) of a wave is one of the top-most parts, as high as the wave goes. A trough is the lowest part, as low as the wave goes. The amplitude of a wave is the vertical distance between the center line and a peak, or the center line and a trough. This should normally be exactly the same distance.

Last of all is a wavelength. A wavelength is the distance from two similar parts of a wave -- from a peak to the next peak, or from a trough to the next trough. It is the length of one full wave, one full oscillation. Wherever you measure it, the number should come out the same.

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