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Transverse Waves in Physics

    Transverse Waves

    • Transverse waves oscillate perpendicularly to their direction of motion. This means that the graph of their position over time will describe a sine wave. Transverse waves are never mechanical, because no mechanism causes motion perpendicular to transfer of mechanical energy.

    Electromagnetic Radiation

    • All electromagnetic radiation is a transverse wave. Electromagnetic radiation is all around you, and it includes visible light, radio waves, microwaves, infrared light and ultraviolet light. Electromagnetic radiation, unlike mechanical waves, can travel through a vacuum.

    Mechanical Waves

    • Mechanical waves are waves that travel by displacing matter. Most mechanical waves are longitudinal. However, some transverse mechanical waves exist, including water waves and the waves created by oscillating a string up and down.

    Waves and Slinkies

    • You can demonstrate what a transverse wave looks like with a slinky. Anchor one end of the slinky to a doorknob or anything that holds it well off the ground. Hold the other end of the slinky and shake it up and down. The oscillations of your arm will transmit to the slinky and you will be able to see a distinct wave pattern traveling through it.

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