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What is the difference between standing waves and transverse waves?

  1. Apr 11, 2012 #1
    I always hear a difference between transverse and longitudinal waves, and, standing and traveling waves, but for me, transverse and standing waves looks very similar; and i can't seem to find out what is the difference.

    Both has nodes and antinodes, thus the change in amplitude as you go about the wave, and all the points between 2 nodes are in phase.

    Which also leads me to see the similarity between traveling and longitudinal waves.

    Could someone explain the difference to me? Thanks in advance.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 11, 2012 #2

    Doc Al

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    Staff: Mentor

    The nodes and antinodes in a standing wave remain in position; traveling waves do not have nodes and antinodes. Longitudinal or transverse has nothing to do with it.
  4. Apr 11, 2012 #3
    What you mean they have nothing to do with it?
    I mean, longitudinal and transverse are words to describe their way of propagation, no?
    But the way they propagate has the same properties as traveling and standing waves, respectively.

    In other words, any traveling wave should be a longitudinal wave, no? Example: sound waves. I mean, if the crests are propagating in the direction of the medium, then I can logically assume that it won't have a node or antinode.

    I cant see how they would not match each other, thus my question on what way would they differ, if they do at all :). Like, could you give me an example on a standing wave that is a longitudinal wave? If I am going all wrong about this, please tell me.

    Thanks for the reply.

  5. Apr 11, 2012 #4

    Doc Al

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    Both longitudinal and transverse waves can be standing or traveling.
    For mechanical waves, like sound and waves on a string, those words describe whether the oscillations of the media are along the direction of motion or perpendicular to it.
    Don't no what you mean by that.
    No. Transverse waves can be traveling waves too. And either can create standing waves.
    Traveling waves do not have nodes or antinodes. But you can certainly have standing waves with sound. (Consider musical instruments.)
    See: Standing waves in air columns
  6. Apr 11, 2012 #5

    Philip Wood

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    Gold Member

    This is not meant rudely, but there's no conspiracy to hide the meanings of these terms. Any decent pre-university Physics textbook will explain them, and give clear diagrams.

    Transverse waves are waves in which the particles of the medium oscillate at right angles to the direction in which the wave profile and the energy travel. The waves in a taut horizontal string when you shake one end up and down are transverse.

    To my mind 'a standing wave pattern' is a better term than 'a standing wave'. In a standing wave pattern neither the wave profile, nor energy, travel. Instead the medium vibrates in a characteristic way, with an amplitude that varies with distance, dropping to zero at 'nodes', which have fixed positions. The vibrations of the medium can be either transverse or longitudinal.

    But may I suggest you find a textbook?
  7. Apr 11, 2012 #6
    Thank you Doc, I understood well now, when I saw your example of standing waves in air columns.

    Philip Wood, my textbook had bad visuals for my understanding and had no clear statement showing that transverse and longitudinal waves could both be a standing wave, thank you, but I am fine now.

  8. Apr 11, 2012 #7

    Doc Al

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    Staff: Mentor

    Good. I'm glad we cleared that up.

    To really nail it down, you might want to skim through this tutorial: Standing Waves
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