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A disturbance that carries energy through matter or space without the transport of matter.

Mechanical Wave

Needs a medium to travel through. Energy is needed to create a disturbance in the elastic medium. Used in models for waves you cannot see. EX) water waves, sound, rope wave.


A material that a wave travels through like water or air.

Wave Pulse

A single disturbance that travels through a medium.

Periodic Wave

When a wave moves up and down at the same rate.

Transverse Wave

The displacement of particles in the medium is perpendicular to the direction of wave motion.

Longitudinal Wave

The displacement of particles of the medium is parallel to the direction of wave motion. EX) sound

Surface Wave

Have properties of both transverse and longitudinal waves. EX) ocean wave.

Electromagnetic Waves

Don't need a medium. Travel through vacuums at the speed of light. EX) light, x-ray, radio.

Wave Velocity

The speed of a wave. Distance/time.


The maximum displacement of a particle of the medium from the equilibrium point. Does not depend on speed.


The shortest distance between two points on a wave that are "in phase." Consists of troughs and crests. Equal to velocity/frequency.


The shortest time interval during which the motion of a wave repeats itself. Does not depend on the speed or medium, but only the wave source. Indicated by the letter T.


The number of waves per unit of time. Equal to 1/period. Does not depend on speed or medium, only the source of the wave.

What does the speed of a mechanical wave depend upon?

Properties of medium, not amplitude or frequency.

Incident Wave

A wave that strikes a boundary between two mediums.

Reflected Wave

A returning wave that results from the nervy from an incident wave being reflected back.


If 2 waves exist in the same phase in a medium at the same time, they affect the medium independently. The displacement of the medium is the sum of the individual displacements.


The result of the superposition of two or more waves.

Destructive Interference

When two pulses from equal but opposite amplitudes meet.


A point in interference where the displacement of a medium is zero.


Point of largest displacement in interference.

Standing Wave

The result of 2 or more waves of the same wavelength, frequency, and amplitude traveling in opposite directions through the same medium.

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