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a repeating disturbance or movement that transfers energy through matter or space (waves carry energy WITHOUT transporting matter); they are produced by something that vibrates


the matter in which a wave travels; can be solid, liquid, gas, or a combination

mechanical waves

these waves can ONLY travel through matter; the two types of mechanical waves are transverse waves and compressional waves

transverse wave

wave for which the matter in the medium moves back and forth at right angles to the direction the wave travels; has crests and troughs

compressional wave

a wave for which the matter in the medium moves back and forth along the direction that the wave travels (ex: sound waves)


the highest points on a transverse wave


the lowest points on a transverse wave


the least dense regions of a compressional wave


the high density regions of a compressional wave


the distance betweenone point on a wave and the nearest point just like it


the number of wavelengths that pass a fixed point each second; is expressed in hertz(Hz) As frequency increases, wavelength decreases


the amount of time it takes one wavelength to pass a fixed point; is expressed in seconds

wave speed equation

speed=frequency(Hz) X wavelength
wave speed depends on the material it is traveling in and the temperature


a measure of the energy carried by a wave; the greater a wave's amplitude, the more energy it carries

amplitude in a compressional wave

related to how tightly the medium is pushed together at the compressions (the less dense the medium is aat the rarefactions, the more enefgy the wave carries)

amplitude of a transverse wave

the distance from the crest or trough to the rest position of the medium

the law of reflection

the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection


the bending of a wave as it changes speed in moving from one medium to another


the bending of waves around an obstacle; can also occur when waves pass through a narrow opening; the effects of diffraction are greatest when the wavelength is nearly the obstacle's size


occurs when two or more waves overlap and combine to form a new wave

standing wave

a wave pattern that forms when waves of equal wavelength and amplitude, but traveling in opposite directions, continuously interfere with each other; has points called nodes that do not move


the process by which an object is made to vibrate by absorbing energy at its natural frequencies

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