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Wave Types

  1. Jun 16, 2011 #1
    As I'm sure many of you know, waves can be either transverse or longitudinal. Transverse waves involve vibrations that are perpendicular to the propagation (direction of motion) of the wave, and longitudinal waves' vibrations are parallel to the wave's propagation.

    Electromagnetic waves such as light, heat, and radio are transverse. Sound and some waves on a spring are longitudinal. What I'm wondering is what are some other examples of these types of waves. Can I get some more examples of these kinds of waves?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2011 #2
    Electromagnetic waves (light, infrared, radio) can also be partially longitudinal, such as in waveguides. Mechanical waves can be both transverse and longitudinal, such seismic waves, water waves, waves on a string. There actually isn't that much of a profound difference between transverse and longitudinal waves besides directionality. Most types of waves can experience both configurations.
  4. Jun 16, 2011 #3


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  5. Jun 16, 2011 #4
    Thanks a lot for that information. As you may have guessed, I'm learning physics using a textbook. Books often omit detailed information I suppose because they often focus on the basics.

    Anyway, you mentioned seismic waves. Is most of the damage done in an earthquake a result of the transverse wave motion or longitudinal motion? I'm guessing it would be the transverse vibration because if buildings and other structures are shook up and down, gravity makes the downward shake that much worse.

    I hope this isn't a stupid question, but can wave vibration move in an acute angle, or does the direction need to be either 0 or 90 degrees?

    Thanks again!

  6. Jun 16, 2011 #5
    Thanks a lot for that list. Here's one example from it:

    What does it mean by the points following "orbital paths"? Based on what the animation shows, I think it means that instead of moving either vertically or horizontally, the points disturbed by the pulse of the wave move along a curved path above the normally flat surface. Is that correct?

  7. Jun 17, 2011 #6
    Yes, this is correct. In general a wave may have a polarization which is neither transverse nor longitudinal but can be seen as a combination of the two.
  8. Jun 17, 2011 #7
    Thanks. I'll need to investigate these kinds of waves in the future.
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