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Physics for Kids

Wave Physics Glossary and Terms

Absorption - Absorption is when some of the wave's energy is taken away when a wave encounters a medium.

Amplitude - The measure of the displacement of the wave from its rest position. The higher the amplitude of a wave, the higher its energy.

Coherence - Two waves are said to be coherent when they have a constant phase difference between them.

Crest - The crest is the highest point of a wave. The opposite of the crest is the trough.

Diffraction - Diffraction is when a wave remains in the same medium, but bends around an obstacle.

Electromagnetic Waves - Electromagnetic waves are waves that can travel through a vacuum. They do not need a medium. Light is a type of electromagnetic wave.

Frequency - The frequency of a wave is the number of times per second that a wave cycles. The frequency is the inverse of the period.

Intensity - A measurement of the strength of a sound wave that is equal to the power divided by the area.

Interference - Interference is when one wave comes into contact with another wave.

Light wave - A light wave is a special type of electromagnetic wave that has a frequency in the visible spectrum.

Longitudinal - A longitudinal wave is a wave where the disturbance travels in the same direction as the wave. Sound waves are longitudinal.

Mechanical Waves - A mechanical wave is a wave that must travel through some sort of matter called a medium. Mechanical waves cannot travel through a vacuum like outer space.

Medium - The medium is the matter that a wave travels through.

Period - The period of a wave is the time between wave crests. It is the inverse of the frequency.

Polarization - Polarization is when a wave oscillates in one particular direction. Light waves are sometimes polarized by a special polarizing filter.

Reflection - Reflection occurs when a wave bounces off a boundary, changing direction but remaining in the same medium.

Refraction - The change in direction and wavelength when a wave moves from one medium to another.

Refractive Index - The refractive index is a number that describes how light travels through a specific medium. Different mediums have different refractive indexes. The refractive index of a vacuum is defined to be 1.

Resonance - Resonance is the tendency for a system to oscillate with greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others.

Resting position - The resting position is the position the medium would take if there were no wave. It is represented on a graph by a line through the center of the wave.

Sound wave - Sound waves are mechanical waves that are caused by a vibration. Sound waves can be heard by our ears.

Speed - The speed of a wave is a measure of how fast the disturbance of the wave is moving. The speed can be dependent on the type of medium that a wave is moving through.

Standing wave - A standing wave is a wave that remains in a constant position.

Transverse - A transverse wave is a wave where the disturbance moves perpendicular to the direction of the wave.

Wave - A wave is a traveling disturbance that moves through space and matter. Waves transfer energy from one place to another, but not matter.

Wavelength - The wavelength of a wave is the distance between two corresponding points on back-to-back cycles of a wave. For example, between two crests of a wave.

Trough - The trough is the lowest part of the wave. The opposite of the trough is the crest.

Waves and Sound
Intro to Waves
Properties of Waves
Wave Behavior
Basics of Sound
Pitch and Acoustics
The Sound Wave
How Musical Notes Work
The Ear and Hearing
Glossary of Wave Terms
Light and Optics
Intro to Light
Light Spectrum
Light as a Wave
Electromagnetic Waves
The Eye and Seeing

Science >> Physics for Kids

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