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There are two major descriptions of wave motion. They are:

Longitudinal waves and Transverse waves


Light travels as a transverse wave, whereas sound travels in a longitudinal wave. The following tables illustrate the differences.


Longitudinal Wave


A vibrates in the direction of the motion as indicated by the arrows of compression and rarefaction occur particles will end up back where they were firstly located.
These are compression and rarefaction waves.
Requires a medium to travel through such as solid, liquid or gas. At sea level sound travels at 330ms-1.
.

Transverse Wave



Particle B vibrates in a direction which is at 90o to the wave motion as indicated by the arrows.




Electromagnetic radiation can travel through a vacuum.
Electromagnetic radiation e.g. visible light, Electromagnetic radiation can travel
through a vacuum.
Electromagnetic radiation e.g. visible light travels at 3 x 108 ms-1 through a vacuum.




Definitions

1. Amplitude
ta The distance from the equilibrium midpoint to the maximum displacement.
Units: metres (m)

2. Frequency
The number of wavelengths passing a point every second.
Units: Hertz (Hz)

3. Period
The time taken for a wavelength to pass a point.
Units: per second (s-1)

4. Velocity
The speed that a wave travels in a particular direction.
Units: metres per second (ms-1)

5. Wavelength
The distance between two consecutive crests or troughs.
Units: metres (m)