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Wave Shape
Next Generation: MS.PS4.1

Wave Shape

Author: Nathan Lampson

This lesson will introduce the shape of waves, including amplitude and frequency. It will also describe how the shape of waves changes from one type to the next.

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There are two type of mechanical waves, longitudinal waves and transverse waves.  Mechanical waves are not waves that are a part of the electromagnetic spectrum and require a medium to travel through.


Longitudinal waves move parallel to the direction the wave is traveling.



A spring toy that is being compressed produces a longitudinal wave that travels in the same direction the wave is traveling.


Transverse waves move at a right angle to the direction of a wave.



A rope that is being moved back and forth produces a transverse wave.


The amplitude of a wave is its maximum distance that particles of the wave are carried from its base position.  Amplitude measures the intensity of a wave.  In a transverse wave, amplitude is the distance measured up or down from the resting position of the wave.  In a longitudinal wave, amplitude measures how compressed the wave becomes.


The frequency of a wave is the number of waves that pass a fixed point in a given amount of time.

Wave Shape