About This Chapter
Characteristics of Waves - Chapter Summary
This chapter includes everything you'll need to review wave properties and behaviors. Begin with lessons on wave parameters - such as period, frequency and amplitude - and explore factors affecting the speed, pitch and volume of sound. You'll also find lessons focusing on the visible light region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Use them to take another look at factors determining the transparency or opacity of an object and re-examine the wave properties affecting our perception of color.
You can also take another look at wave behaviors, including reflection, resonance, refraction, diffraction and dispersion, and examine the concept of wave-particle duality. The chapter concludes with a lesson showing you how to solve conceptual and numerical problems with scattering. Topics of instruction include:
- Transverse and longitudinal waves
- Sound wave amplitude and frequency
- Factors affecting the speed of sound
- Electromagnetic wave properties
- Wave reflection and refraction
- Wave dispersion and diffraction
- Constructive and destructive interference
- Wave-particle duality
Instructors teaching these video lessons use real-world examples that make studying wave characteristics fun. Access their expert instruction by reading through text lessons or watching short videos that last less than ten minutes each. Multiple-choice quizzes are also included to ensure you have a solid understanding of wave properties and behaviors by the time you finish this chapter.
1. Vibrations and Waves: Energy and Motion
What is a wave? What causes waves, and how do they travel from one place to another? This lesson will guide you through the basics of waves. We'll discuss their origins from vibrations and investigate how they carry energy through a medium.
2. Wave Parameters: Wavelength, Amplitude, Period, Frequency & Speed
How do we measure and describe waves? How do waves differ based upon their shapes? This lesson will guide you through the five wave parameters - period, frequency, amplitude, wavelength, and speed - that we use to characterize waves.
3. Transverse & Longitudinal Waves: Definition & Examples
What comes to mind when you think of a wave? Chances are your mental image takes the form of a transverse wave. But, longitudinal waves are just as important, and understanding the difference is vital to learning about waves. In this lesson, explore both types of waves and the unique characteristics of each.
4. What is Sound? - Definition and Factors Affecting the Speed of Sound
Explore the minute workings of sound waves and how they travel. We'll discuss the main factors that affect the speed of sound waves, and we'll try some mathematical problems involving the wave equation.
5. Pitch and Volume in Sound Waves
What do pitch and volume mean when talking about sound waves? Further your understanding of sound waves in this lesson as we explore the more familiar aspects of sound. We'll learn about pitch and volume and how they relate to sound wave parameters.
6. Electromagnetic Waves: Definition, Sources & Properties
In this lesson, learn the basics of electromagnetic waves and how they make up the electromagnetic spectrum. We will explore the major trends and categories within the spectrum, as well as the various sources of electromagnetic waves.
7. The Nature of Light: Origin, Spectrum & Color Frequency
This lesson introduces the basics of visible light and color. Learn how the visible light spectrum is divided into the six color ranges. We'll also discuss why different people name colors in different ways.
8. Reflection: Angle of Incidence and Curved Surfaces
How do waves reflect off of surfaces? How do we account for the images that we see reflected in various objects? Discover the answers to these questions as we investigate the rays and angles defining the law of reflection.
9. Resonance: Definition & Transmission of Waves
This lesson describes how sound and light waves are affected by the principle of resonance. Learn how resonance occurs through the vibrations and resonant frequencies of objects. You'll investigate everyday examples of resonance and learn how to break a wine glass with your voice!
10. Transparent and Opaque Materials in Electromagnetic Waves
What makes an object transparent or opaque? How does light pass through some objects and not others? And what about the other types of electromagnetic waves? We'll investigate all these questions in this lesson about the transparency and opacity of materials.
11. Color: White Light, Reflection & Absorption
What gives color to objects? How do light waves interact with materials to produce red and green or white and black? In this lesson, learn how white light is composed of all colors and how absorption and reflection influence our color perception.
12. Refraction & Dispersion: Definition, Snell's Law & Index of Refraction
Refraction explains why light bends in water. But, did you know that mathematical laws determine exactly how light waves are bent? In this lesson, we'll explore the mechanics of wave refraction, including Snell's Law and the index of refraction.
13. Diffraction: Relation to Sound & Light and Effects of Wavelength
This lesson explores diffraction as one of the many behaviors of waves. Learn how diffraction occurs in sound and light waves and how it is affected by the wavelength of a wave. Find out how animals use diffraction to communicate and how scientists use it to study molecules.
14. Constructive and Destructive Interference
What happens when one wave meets another? Do the waves converge to make one giant wave? Or, do they destroy each other? In this lesson, we'll explore the workings of wave interference.
15. The Doppler Effect: Definition, Examples & Applications
What is the Doppler effect? How does it affect our perceptions of sound and light? In this lesson, learn how traveling wave sources can change the way we observe sound and light waves. Explore the applications of the Doppler effect on shock waves, sonic booms, and the movements of distant galaxies.
16. Specular Reflection: Definition & Examples
This lesson will define specular reflection, explain how it differs from diffuse reflection, and give some examples of specular reflection: when it is useful and when it is problematic. A short quiz will follow.
17. Wave-Particle Duality: Concept, Explanation & Examples
Is light a particle with mass and substance? Or, is it just a wave traveling through space? Most scientists say light is both a particle and a wave! Find out how they came to this strange conclusion as we learn about the theory of wave-particle duality.
18. The 7 Major Regions of the Electromagnetic Spectrum
This lesson will walk you through each of the major regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Explore the unique characteristics of X-rays, microwaves, radio waves, UV rays, infrared, gamma rays, and of course, visible light.
19. Diffuse Reflection: Definition, Examples & Surfaces
This lesson explores the law of reflection and how it applies to different surfaces and wave types. We'll learn the difference between specular and diffuse reflection and investigate how diffuse reflection affects our perception of sound and light.
20. How Wave Propagation Relates to the Properties of Materials
When you've finished this lesson, you'll be able to explain the meaning of wave propagation, as well as list and explain the material properties that affect wave speed. We'll wrap up the lesson with a short quiz.
Earning College Credit
Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.
To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page
Transferring credit to the school of your choice
Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.
Other chapters within the College Physics: Help & Review course
- Scientific Inquiry
- Formulating Scientific Questions
- Planning a Scientific Investigation
- Observation and Data Collection
- Data Analysis and Graphing
- Drawing and Explaining Conclusions
- Safety During Science Experiments
- Scientific Ethics
- Motion and Newton's Laws
- Kinematic Equations in Physics
- Properties of Rotational Motion
- Linear Momentum Principles
- Work, Energy and Power
- Heat and Thermodynamics
- Electrical & Magnetic Forces
- Electric Potential & Capacitance
- Physics Circuits
- Magnetic Forces and Fields
- Quantum Mechanics and the Standard Model
- Science Literacy
- Diversity in Science
- Historical Perspectives in Physics
- Science, Technology and Beliefs