Waves: An Exploration of Types, Calculations, Speed and Differences

Welcome back to MyExamRevision! In today’s enlightening blog post, we’re delving deep into the world of waves. Whether it’s understanding how to label wave components, calculating wave speed, or distinguishing between transverse and longitudinal waves, we’ve got you covered.

Waves are fundamental to our understanding of energy transfer, and this blog will equip you with the knowledge you need to grasp their intricacies. Let’s dive in!

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Chapter 1

Waves: Energy Transfer Without Matter

Chapter 2

Understanding Wave Basics: Parts and Properties

Chapter 3

Distinguishing Between Transverse and Longitudinal Waves

Chapter 4

Calculating Wave Speed: Putting It All Together

Chapter 5


Chapter 1

Waves: Energy Transfer Without Matter

First and foremost, it’s crucial to grasp that waves are a means of transferring energy from one place to another without the actual transfer of matter. This is a fundamental concept in physics that applies to various types of waves, such as light waves and sound waves. When, for instance, you observe a beautiful sunset or hear your favorite song, what’s happening is the transfer of energy from a source to your senses.

Waves Energy Transfer Without Matter

Imagine you’re watching a video on your phone. The light waves emanating from your phone’s screen reach your eyes, allowing you to perceive the images. Similarly, when you’re listening to music on your headphones, sound waves are traveling from the speakers to your ears. In both cases, energy is being transferred, but no physical matter is moving from the phone to your eye or from the speakers to your ear.


Sometimes, we interpret this transferred energy as meaningful information, leading to the formation of images and sounds in our brains. This is the magic that allows us to experience the world around us.

Chapter 2

Understanding Wave Basics: Parts and Properties

To understand waves better, it’s essential to know their key components and properties. Wave exhibits several distinctive features, including:

Understanding Wave Basics Parts and Properties


The amplitude of a wave is the maximum displacement from the equilibrium position. In simpler terms, it’s the height of a wave from its resting point. Imagine a water wave – the highest point of the wave above the calm water surface represents its amplitude.


Wavelength is the distance between two successive points in a wave that are in phase, typically measured from crest to crest or trough to trough. It represents the length of one complete oscillation in the wave. In a water wave, it’s the distance between two consecutive crests or troughs.

Waves Displacement, Amplitude, and Wavelength

Time Period

The time period of a wave is the time it takes to complete one full oscillation or one wavelength. It’s usually measured in seconds. Time period and frequency are inversely related, with the time period being the reciprocal of the frequency.



Frequency is the number of complete oscillations or cycles a wave completes per unit of time, typically measured in Hertz (Hz), which represents cycles per second. A higher frequency means more oscillations in a given time period

Wave Speed

Wave speed is a fundamental property that indicates how fast a wave travels. It’s calculated by multiplying the wavelength by the frequency. Understanding wave speed helps us predict how waves behave and interact with their environment.

Now, let’s put this knowledge into practice with some equations:

  • Frequency (f): The frequency of a wave can be calculated using the equation: f = 1 / T, where ‘f’ is the frequency in Hertz (Hz), and ‘T’ is the time period in seconds.
  • Time Period (T): Conversely, the time period can be calculated as T = 1 / f.
  • Wave Speed (v): The wave speed can be determined by the equation: v = λ * f, where ‘v’ is the wave speed in meters per second (m/s), ‘λ’ is the wavelength in meters (m), and ‘f’ is the frequency in Hertz.
Calculating Wave Speed

Chapter 3

Distinguishing Between Transverse and Longitudinal Waves

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s delve into the classification of waves. Waves are classified into two main types: transverse waves and longitudinal waves. The key difference lies in the direction of the oscillations concerning the direction of energy transfer.

Distinguishing Between Transverse and Longitudinal Waves

Transverse Waves

In transverse waves, the oscillations occur perpendicular (at right angles) to the direction of energy transfer. Picture a wave travelling horizontally from left to right. The particles involved in the wave move vertically, oscillating up and down.


One common example of a transverse wave is a light wave. As light travels through space, the electric and magnetic fields oscillate perpendicular to the direction of propagation. This characteristic is what allows us to polarize light.


Another example is the waves on a water surface. When you create ripples in a pond, the water moves up and down, while the wave energy travels horizontally across the water.


Longitudinal Waves

In contrast, longitudinal waves have oscillations parallel to the direction of energy transfer. Imagine a slinky toy being stretched and compressed horizontally. As the wave moves, the coils of the slinky move back and forth in the same direction as the wave itself.


A classic example of a longitudinal wave is a sound wave. When you hear a sound, it’s the result of air particles compressing and expanding as the wave of energy passes through. The regions of compression and rarefaction move along with the wave.


Additionally, some shockwaves, like seismic P-waves (primary wave), are longitudinal in nature. They travel through the Earth’s interior, causing particles to oscillate in the same direction as the wave’s motion.


Chapter 4

Calculating Wave Speed: Putting It All Together

Now that we’ve covered various aspects of wave, let’s put our knowledge into practice. Calculating wave speed is a fundamental concept in understanding how waves behave and interact with their surroundings.

Calculating Wave Speed Putting It All Together

To calculate wave speed (v), you can use the following equation: v = λ * f

Calculating Wave Speed

Here’s how it works:

  • Wave Speed (v): This is what we want to find, measured in meters per second (m/s).
  • Wavelength (λ): Measure the length of one complete oscillation, typically in meters (m).
  • Frequency (f): Determine how many complete oscillations occur per second, measured in Hertz (Hz).

For instance, imagine you have a sound wave with a frequency (f) of 400 Hertz and a wavelength (λ) of 0.7 meters. Using the formula, you can calculate the wave speed:

v = 0.7 m * 400 Hz = 280 m/s

So, the wave speed of this sound wave is 280 meters per second.

waves Example

Chapter 5


In this in-depth exploration of waves, we’ve journeyed through the fundamentals of energy transfer and oscillation dynamics. Waves, whether they’re light waves illuminating your surroundings or sound waves serenading your ears, play a fundamental role in our understanding of the world.

Conclusion iii

We’ve learned about the key components of waves, such as amplitude, wavelength, time period, frequency, and wave speed. Additionally, we’ve distinguished between transverse waves, where oscillations are perpendicular to the direction of energy transfer, and longitudinal waves, where oscillations are parallel to the direction of energy transfer.

Understanding wave speed, the rate at which wave travel, is essential for predicting wave behaviour and interactions.

We hope this comprehensive guide has demystified waves and enriched your knowledge of this fundamental concept in physics. Wave is all around us, shaping our perception of the world, and with this newfound understanding, you’re better equipped to appreciate their role in the universe. Whether you’re exploring the cosmos with light wave or enjoying the harmony of music with sound waves, waves are an integral part of our existence.

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