# Calculating the Frequency of EM Waves

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#### Calculating the Frequency of EM Waves

###### TRY SOME QUICK QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO GET STARTED
Lower frequency = Longer wavelengths.
The frequency of a given electromagnetic wave can be calculated by dividing the speed of light in a vacuum (300,000,000 m/s) by its wavelength measured in metres.
The frequency of incident light is unchanged as it travels from air into water and undergoes refraction.
The frequency of a wave is a measurement of the number of waves passing a given point in a given time!
The frequency of an electromagnetic wave is a measurement of the number of wave oscillations passing a given point in a given period of time.

#### Some key terms

The hertz (symbol: Hz) is a unit used to measure the frequency of electromagnetic waves.

• Hertz are used when measuring the frequency of wave-cycles of electromagnetic waves.
• One hertz is defined as one cycle per second.
• Hertz measure the number of oscillations of the perpendicular electric and magnetic fields of electromagnetic radiation per second.
• 1 Hertz (Hz) = 1 cycle per second
• 1 Kilohertz (kHz) = 1,000 (thousand) cycles per second
• 1 Megahertz (MHz) = 1,000,000 (million) cycles per second
• 1 Gigahertz (GHz) = 1,000,000,000 (billion) cycles per second
• 1 Terahertz (THz) = 1,000,000,000,000 (trillion )cycles per second

The speed (or velocity) of a light wave is a measurement of how far it travels in a certain time.

• The speed of light is measured in metres per second (m/s).
• Light travels through a vacuum at 300,000 kilometres per second.
• The exact speed at which light travels through a vacuum is 299,792,458 metres per second.
• Light travels through other media at lower speeds.
• A vacuum is a region of space that contains no matter.
• Matter is anything that has mass and occupies space by having volume.
• When discussing electromagnetic radiation the term medium (plural media) is used to refer to anything through which light propagates including empty space and any material that occupies space such as a solid, liquid or gas.
• In other contexts empty space is not considered to be a medium because it does not contain matter.

An electromagnetic wave carries electromagnetic radiation.

• An electromagnetic wave is formed as electromagnetic radiation propagates from a light source, travels through space and encounters different materials.
• Electromagnetic waves can be imagined as synchronised oscillations of electric and magnetic fields that propagate at the speed of light in a vacuum.
• Electromagnetic waves are similar to other types of waves in so far as they can be measured in terms of wavelength, frequency and amplitude.
• We can feel electromagnetic waves release their energy when sunlight warms our skin.
• Remember that electromagnetic radiation can be described either as an oscillating wave or as a stream of particles, called photons, which also travel in a wave-like pattern.
• The notion of waves is often used to describe phenomena such as refraction or reflection whilst the particle analogy is used when dealing with phenomena such as diffraction and interference.

The frequency of electromagnetic radiation (light) refers to the number of wave-cycles of an electromagnetic wave that pass a given point in a given amount of time.

Wavelength is a measurement from any point on the path of a wave to the same point on its next oscillation. The measurement is made parallel to the centre-line of the wave.

• The wavelength of an electromagnetic wave is measured in metres.
• Each type of electromagnetic radiation, such as radio waves, visible light and gamma waves,  forms a band of wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum.
• The visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum is composed of the range of wavelengths that correspond with all the different colours we see in the world.
• Human beings don’t see wavelengths of visible light, but they do see the spectral colours that correspond with each wavelength and the other colours produced when different wavelengths are combined.
• The wavelength of visible light is measured in nanometres. There are 1,000,000,000 nanometres to a metre.

A wave-cycle refers to the path of a wave measured from any point through the course of a single oscillation to the same point on the next oscillation.

• Imagine a wave-cycle as a series of points marked on the path of the wave between one crest and the next.
• All electromagnetic waves share features such as crests, troughs, oscillations, wavelength, frequency, amplitude, direction of travel.
• Whilst a wave-cycle is the path from one point on a wave during a single oscillation to the same point on completion of that oscillation, wavelength is a measurement of the same phenomenon along the axis of the wave.

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