Daniel A. Russell, Graduate regimen in Acoustics, The Pennsylvania State college


The content of this web page was initially posted top top April 16, 2002. Animations and also text to be updated ~ above February 18, 2015. The HTML password was modification to be HTML5 compliant on march 18, 2013.

a disturbance or variation that transfers energy progressively from suggest to allude in a medium and that might take the form of an elastic deformation or that a sports of pressure, electrical or magnetic intensity, electric potential, or temperature.

You are watching: What is a medium in a wave

The most important part of this meaning is the a tide is a disturbance or variation i beg your pardon travels v a medium. The tool through which the wave travels might experience some local oscillations together the tide passes, yet the corpuscle in the tool do not travel through the wave. The disturbance might take any type of of a number of shapes, indigenous a finite broad pulse come an infinitely long sine wave.


Have you ever "done the wave" as part of a big crowd in ~ a football or baseball game? A group of human being jumps up and sits ago down, some nearby people see them and they run up, some people further away follow suit and also pretty soon you have a tide travelling around the stadium. The tide is the disturbance (people jumping up and also sitting ago down), and also it travels about the stadium. However, no one of the individual civilization in the stadium are carried approximately with the tide as it travels - they all continue to be at your seats. Examine out this real-life instance by a armed forces precision drill team (form Physics Footnotes)

Sound tide in waiting behave in lot the same way. Together the tide pulse overcome through, the corpuscle in the air oscillate back and forth around their equilibrium positions yet it is the disturbance which travels, no the individual particles in the medium. There are several other instances of wave species which can propagate with a mechanical medium.



Transverse waves on a cable are one more example. The wire is displaced up and also down together the tide pulse travel from left come right, but the string itself does not experience any net motion. I have actually other animations that illustrate what happens when transverse waves on strings reflect native hard and also soft boundaries, or native more general impedance boundaries.

See more: What Kind Of Glasses Did John Lennon Wear ? Im Looking Through You: John Lennons Spectacles

Here is a much more detailed instance of a longitudinal tide traveling with a material medium. When the tide exampels over were pulses (with a finite duration), this wave is a constant sinusoidal wave, with regions of compression (where the particles room squished closer together) alternating with regions of rarefaction (where particles room spread aside from that apart). Red dots (and arrows) show that individual particles just oscillate back and forth around their equilibrium positions while the wave disturbance propagates v the medium.