Features of Electromagnetic Waves

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To find out more about the diagram above . . . . read on!

Features of Electromagnetic Waves

Look carefully at the diagram at the top of the page. Now check out the following questions (and answers)!

  1. Is the wave shown in the diagram travelling from left to right?
  2. What is the term for the lowest point in the oscillation of a wave?
  3. Is wavelength measured between the crests of successive waves?
  4. What is the frequency of a wave?
  5. What speed does a light wave travel at in a vacuum?

About the Diagram

Introducing the diagram! Read back and forward between the image at the top of the page and the explanation below!

This diagram shows the key features of electromagnetic (light) waves and introduces some of the terms used to describe them.

  • Across the centre is an electromagnetic wave, shown in red.
  • The wave is travelling from left to right.
  • The different features of the wave are shown by labels.
  • At the bottom of the diagram are short definitions of key terms.

Remember that:

Follow the blue links for definitions . . . . or check the summaries of key terms below!

Some Key Terms

Move to the next level! Check out the following terms.

Amplitude

The amplitude of a wave is a measurement of the distance from the top of a crest through the centre line  (the still position, zero-point, mid-point) to the bottom of a trough.

In the case of an electromagnetic wave, amplitude corresponds with the perception of the intensity of light and the brightness of colour perceived by an observer.

Crest and trough

The crest is the point on a wave with the maximum value of upward displacement within a wave-cycle. A trough is the opposite of a crest, so the minimum or lowest point in a wave-cycle.

Frequency

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.

Oscillation

An oscillation is a periodic motion that repeats itself in a regular cycle. An oscillating movement is always around an equilibrium point or mean value. It is also known as a periodic motion.

Wave diagram

In physics and optics, a wave diagram uses a set of drawing conventions and labels to describe the attributes of light waves including wavelength, frequency, amplitude and direction of travel.

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