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The above three animations represent a particle description of two waves on a string and also a wave on a spring (position is given in meters and time is given in seconds). Restart. Animation 1 depicts what is called a transverse wave. The waving is in the y direction while the wave propagation (the direction of the wave velocity) is in the x direction. If you have ever done "the wave" at a football or a basketball game you have been a part of a transverse wave! ("the wave" is a special example of a traveling wave called a pulse in that the medium that supports the wave does not always wave.) Note that the individual particles that make up the string go up and down yet do not move in the x direction (just as during the wave you just stand up and then sit down). Animation 2 represents a longitudinal wave. In a longitudinal wave the waving of the medium, here the string particles, is in the direction of the propagation of the wave. An example of a longitudinal wave are sound waves. Animation 3 represents a wave on a spring. Is it a transverse or longitudinal wave? It is both! Can you tell why this is?
In Animation 4, water waves are depicted by showing the individual motion of the water molecules (position is given in meters and time is given in seconds). What types of wave is depicted by the animation?
Illustration by Morten Brydensholt, Wolfgang Christian, and Mario Belloni
Script by Morten Brydensholt, Wolfgang Christian, and Mario Belloni
© 2003 by Prentice-Hall, Inc. A Pearson Company