wavelength (one 360 degree cycle) is the distance from the crest of one wave to the crest of the next, or between any two similar points on adjacent waves. The amplitude of a transverse wave is half the distance measured vertically from the crest to the trough.">
To explain transverse waves, we will again use our example of water waves. Figure 1-3 is a cross section diagram of waves viewed from the side. Notice that the waves are a succession of crests and troughs. The wavelength (one 360 degree cycle) is the distance from the crest of one wave to the crest of the next, or between any two similar points on adjacent waves. The amplitude of a transverse wave is half the distance measured vertically from the crest to the trough. Water waves are known as transverse waves because the motion of the water is up and down, or at right angles to the direction in which the waves are traveling. You can see this by observing a cork bobbing up and down on water as the waves pass by; the cork moves very little in a sideways direction. In figure 1-4, the small arrows show the up-and-down direction the cork moves as the transverse wave is set in motion. The direction the wave travels is shown by the large arrow. Radio waves, light waves, and heat waves are examples of transverse waves.
Figure 1-3. - Elements of a wave.
Figure 1-4. - Transverse wave.
In the previous discussion, we listed radio waves, light waves, and heat waves as examples of transverse waves, but we did not mention sound waves. Why? Simply because sound waves are LONGITUDINAL WAVES. Unlike transverse waves, which travel at right angles to the direction of propagation, sound waves travel back and forth in the same direction as the wave motion. Therefore, longitudinal waves are waves in which the disturbance takes place in the direction of propagation. Longitudinal waves are sometimes called COMPRESSION WAVES.
Waves that make up sound, such as those set up in the air by a vibrating tuning fork, are longitudinal waves. In figure 1-5, the tuning fork, when struck, sets up vibrations. As the tine moves in an outward direction, the air immediately in front of it is compressed (made more dense) so that its momentary pressure is raised above that at other points in the surrounding medium (air). Because air is elastic, the disturbance is transmitted in an outward direction as a COMPRESSION WAVE. When the tine returns and moves in the inward direction, the air in front of the tine is rarefied (made less dense or expanded) so that its pressure is lowered below that of the other points in the surrounding air. The rarefied wave is propagated from the tuning fork and follows the compressed wave through the medium (air).
Figure 1-5. - Sound propagation by a tuning fork.
We have used the term medium in describing the motion of waves. Since medium is a term that is used frequently in discussing propagation, it needs to be defined so you will understand what a medium is and its application to propagation.
A MEDIUM is the vehicle through which the wave travels from one point to the next. The vehicle that carries a wave can be just about anything. An example of a medium, already mentioned, is air. Air, as defined by the dictionary, is the mixture of invisible, odorless, tasteless gases that surrounds the earth (the atmosphere). Air is made up of molecules of various gases (and impurities). We will call these molecules of air particles of air or simply particles.
Figure 1-6 will help you to understand how waves travel through air. The object producing the waves is called the SOURCE - a bell in this illustration. The object responding to the waves is called a DETECTOR or RECEIVER - in this case, the human ear. The medium is air, which is the means of conveying the waves from the source to the detector. The source, detector, and medium are all necessary for wave motion and wave propagation (except for electromagnetic waves which require no medium). The waves shown in figure 1-6 are sound waves. As the bell is rung, the particles of air around the bell are compressed and then expanded. This compression and expansion of particles of air set up a wave motion in the air. As the waves are produced, they carry energy from particle to particle through the medium (air) to the detector (ear).
Figure 1-6. - The three elements of sound.
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