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Transverse wave

  1. May 11, 2009 #1
    I heard that transverse wave can not travel trough gas and liquid then how can light travel through all the way to earth?
    Is it because the light is the collection of small energy particles called photon and not just behave as the normal waves?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 11, 2009 #2
    I believe that you are confused between different types of waves.

    You must distinguish between the waves which travel through a medium as a disturbance, i.e. a physical distortion of the medium (typically gas, liquid or solid), and the electromagnetic waves which are a disturbance of the electromagnetic field.

    Transverse waves of the former type (also called S-waves in seismology) cannot travel through a medium that has no rigidity. Light is not of this variety of wave; light is an electromagnetic wave. Perhaps someone with more knowledge in this area could elaborate on what exactly a transverse electromagnetic wave is -- I am unsure on this and am curious -- however, I would wager that if such a wave type exists that it would have no problem travelling through liquid or gas.
  4. May 11, 2009 #3


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    Transverse just means that the polarization of the wave lies in a plane perpendicular to the direction of motion. Longitudinal waves are polarized in the direction of motion. The polarization is the direction of the oscillations. In the case of an EM wave it is the electric and magnetic field oscillations. In the case of sound, the pressure wave oscillates in the direction of travel.
  5. May 11, 2009 #4
    So it will be easy for me to think that the light has the property of transverse wave but not all of them right?
    Thankyou guys!
  6. May 12, 2009 #5


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    Ummm... well...

    Light is for the most part a transverse wave with a few exceptions. Certain surface wave modes, like the Zenneck surface wave, and plasma modes are longitudinal and I have heard that some cavity modes can be longitudinal.
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