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A wave is a disturbance that travels through space and time. Unlike electromagnetic (optics) waves that can propagate through vacuum, mechanical waves (acoustics, ocean surface waves) need a medium to travel. Waves are characterized by their crests (highs) and troughs (lows), and may be classified as traverse waves with vibrations perpendicular to the direction of propagation (violin strings, light) or longitudinal waves with vibrations parallel to the direction of the propagation (horn, radar). Ripples on the surface of water are a combination of both traverse and longitudinal waves.

Waves are mathematically represented by their wavelength (λ), the distance between two consecutive crests (or troughs), and amplitude, the maximum height between crests and troughs. Period, T, is the time for one complete cycle of a wave oscillation.


(1) Toossi Reza, "Energy and the Environment:Sources, technologies, and impacts", Verve Publishers, 2005

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