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Are plane waves real/physical?

  1. Oct 28, 2015 #1
    When finding solutions to Maxwells equations we always cosider the case of a plane wave. But are plane waves real/physical solutions we can consider in real life? My guess is not because it is required to propagate infinitely.

    So why do we use plane waves to solve Maxwell's equations?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 28, 2015 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Plane waves are useful approximations for many practical situations. For example, if you are far enough from an oscillating dipole source, and you consider a volume of space that is small enough compared to the distance from the source, the curvature of the waves is small enough that you can ignore it for practical purposes.
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