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Why/how do waves work?

  1. Aug 4, 2003 #1
    Why/how do waves work??

    a basic question to many here, i was just wondering how nature organizes itself into waves...
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 4, 2003 #2

    russ_watters

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    Staff: Mentor

    I'm not sure I understand. What kind of waves are you talking about? Light or pressure? Pressure waves are a biproduct of pressure difference. There is no underlying organization. Its pretty much just like dominos - one falls into the next, knocking it over into the next.

    It works exactly the same for air, water, electricity, guitar strings, and the line at the movie theater.
     
  4. Aug 4, 2003 #3
    When you have two ways of storing energy and the energy can swap back and forth between them you can have an oscillator. When the oscillation depends upon position it can move through space as a wave. For a sound wave the ways are pressure and kinetic energy, for a light wave they are electic and magnetic field.
     
  5. Aug 4, 2003 #4
    Re: Why/how do waves work??

    If you thought of the wave as just appearing, it would seem odd indeed for such 'organization'. But, there is always a source of the wave (an oscillator of some kind) and the wave disturbance travels out from the source maintaining its organization.

    There are two kinds of waves, longitudinal where the variation is along the same direction as the wave travels. These waves need a material ( a medium) to travel in or they stop. An example is sound waves.

    The other kind is transverse waves where the oscillation is at right angles to the direction of travel. An example is light or radiowaves and they do not need a material to travel in. That's why we can see the stars through the vacuum of space. In fact light slows down when it travels through a material even if the material is thin air.
     
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