What Are Waves?
Waves transport energy without transferring matter. They're oscillations that travel through space or a medium, like water or air. Not all waves require a medium, however; electromagnetic waves can move through a vacuum.
Mechanical vs Electromagnetic
Mechanical waves, like sound or ocean waves, need a medium to travel. Electromagnetic waves, such as light and radio waves, don't. They can travel through empty space, which is how sunlight reaches Earth.
Transverse and Longitudinal Waves
Transverse waves move perpendicular to energy transfer, like light waves. Longitudinal waves, like sound, move in the same direction as energy transfer, creating compressions and rarefactions in the medium.
Surprising Wave Behaviors
Some waves can 'bend' around obstacles, a phenomenon known as diffraction. Waves can also interfere with each other constructively or destructively, amplifying or canceling out, which is essential in noise-canceling headphones.
Tsunamis: Misunderstood Waves
Contrary to popular belief, tsunamis are not tidal waves but long-wavelength, high-energy sea waves caused by underwater disturbances. They can cross entire oceans, growing in height as they near land.
Quantum Wave-Particle Duality
In the quantum realm, particles like electrons exhibit wave-particle duality, behaving as both particles and waves. This duality is fundamental to quantum mechanics and challenges our classical understanding of physics.
The Universe’s Background Ripples
Cosmic Microwave Background is the afterglow of the Big Bang, rippling as waves across the universe. It's not only evidence of the universe's birth but also provides insights into its composition and evolution.