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The Basics of Waves

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A series of free Online High School Physics Video Lessons.

In this lesson, we will learn

  • Wave Characteristics
  • Frequency and Period of a wave
  • Amplitude of a wave
  • Wavelength of a wave
  • Speed of a wave

Wave Characteristics

Waves are disturbances that travel through a fluid medium. Several common wave characteristics include frequency, period, wavelength, and amplitude. There are two main type of waves, transverse waves and longitudinal waves.
Understanding the different characteristics of waves.
A brief introduction to characteristics of transverse and longitudinal waves such as wavelength, amplitude, phase, crests, troughs, compressions and rarefactions.
Define terms to describe periodic waves - speed, wavelength, frequency.
Determine whether points on consecutive wave are in phase.

Frequency - Period

The frequency of a wave measures how often it passes a given point in a given length of time. A wave's period measures how long it takes for a wave to pass a given point in its entirety, from crest to crest. Frequency and period are basically measuring the same characteristic of a wave and can be related by the equation period = 1 / frequency. The frequency and periods of electromagnetic waves do not change and can be used to identify different types of waves.
A brief introduction to frequency and period.
Calculate the period and frequency for objects moving in circles at constant speed.
Understanding frequency of waves.


Amplitude measures how far a wave rises and falls. A wave's amplitude is defined as half the distance from its highest point to its lowest point. Amplitude is proportional to the energy of a wave, a high energy wave having a high amplitude and a low energy wave having a low amplitude.
Understanding the amplitude of waves.
Wavelength and Amplitude


Wavelength is the distance between two crests of a wave. It is related to frequency and period by the equations
wave speed = frequency × wavelength and
wave speed = wavelength / period.
How to understand and find the length of waves.

Wave Speed

Wave speed is the speed at which a wave travels. Wave speed is related to wavelength, frequency, and period by the equation wave speed = frequency × wavelength. The most commonly used wave speed is the speed of visible light, an electromagnetic wave
How to find the speed of waves
Oscillation and Wave Speed - Exploring Wave Motion

Try the free Mathway calculator and problem solver below to practice various math topics. Try the given examples, or type in your own problem and check your answer with the step-by-step explanations.
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