Longitudinal & Transverse Waves

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Transverse Waves

Here are some examples of transverse waves:

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Moving springs

  • Waving/moving the coils of a spring will make the coils move up and down as the wave passes.
  • They then return to their original position after the wave has passed.
  • This shows that a wave moves without transferring matter because the spring coils do not travel along with the wave.
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Mexican wave

  • A “Mexican wave” at a sports event is an example of a transverse wave.
  • The wave spreads around the stadium as the people stand up and sit down one after the other (at right angles to the direction of the people’s motion).
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Corks bobbing

  • A cork bobbing on the water shows how a transverse wave works.

Longitudinal Waves

Here are some example of longitudinal waves:

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Pulling & pushing springs

  • Pushing the spring in and out (compressing and extending), longitudinal waves are created.
  • The coils and the wave move along the same line.
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Sound waves

  • Sound waves are longitudinal waves.
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  • P-waves are pressure waves created during earthquakes.
  • They are longitudinal waves.

Electromagnetic Waves

All electromagnetic waves are transverse and travel at the same speed.

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  • All electromagnetic waves are transverse waves.
    • The electric and magnetic fields oscillate perpendicular to the direction of energy propagation.
  • All electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light, c, in a vacuum.
    • The speed of light is c = 3 x 108 m/s.

Jump to other topics

1Measurements & Errors

2Particles & Radiation


4Mechanics & Materials


6Further Mechanics & Thermal Physics (A2 only)

7Fields & Their Consequences (A2 only)

8Nuclear Physics (A2 only)

9Option: Astrophysics (A2 only)

10Option: Medical Physics (A2 only)

11Option: Engineering Physics (A2 only)

12Option: Turning Points in Physics (A2 only)

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