Properties of Waves

Waves are a fundamental part of our world and are found in a wide range of natural and man-made phenomena, from light and sound to radio and ocean waves. Waves are characterized by several key properties that determine their behavior and how they interact with their environment.


The amplitude of a wave is the maximum displacement of the medium from its rest position. For example, in a sound wave, the amplitude corresponds to the loudness of the sound. In an electromagnetic wave such as light, the amplitude corresponds to the intensity of the light.


The wavelength of a wave is the distance between two corresponding points on the wave, such as the peaks or the troughs. In sound waves, wavelength determines the pitch of the sound. In electromagnetic waves such as light, wavelength determines the color of the light.


The frequency of a wave is the number of cycles of the wave that occur in a given time period. It is measured in hertz (Hz), which corresponds to cycles per second. In sound waves, frequency determines the pitch of the sound. In electromagnetic waves such as light, frequency determines the energy and type of the light, such as radio waves, microwaves, or x-rays.


The period of a wave is the time it takes for one complete cycle of the wave to occur. It is related to frequency by the equation period = 1/frequency.


The speed of a wave is determined by the properties of the medium through which it is traveling. In general, waves travel faster through denser materials such as solids than through less dense materials such as gases. In vacuum, electromagnetic waves such as light travel at a constant speed of 299,792,458 meters per second (or c).

Reflection, Refraction and Diffraction:

Waves can also interact with their environment through reflection, refraction, and diffraction. Reflection occurs when a wave bounces off a surface, such as an echo in a room. Refraction occurs when a wave passes through a medium of a different density, such as light passing through a prism. Diffraction occurs when a wave encounters an obstacle, causing it to bend around the obstacle. In summary, waves are characterized by several key properties, including amplitude, wavelength, frequency, period, and speed. These properties determine how waves behave and interact with their environment.

Intro to Waves

Wave Behavior