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Wave properties

Review your understanding of wave properties in this free article aligned to NGSS standards.

Key points:

  • A wave is a repeating disturbance that travels through matter or space transferring only energy.
  • Below is a model of a wave.
A diagram of a wave that goes up and down four times. There is a horizontal line through the middle. The parts of the wave above the line are crests, and the parts below the line are troughs. The distance from the center line to each crest or trough is the amplitude. The distance between the top of one wave and the top of the next wave is the wavelength.
  • A wave’s crest is its highest point, and its trough is its lowest point.
  • A wave’s amplitude is the maximum distance (positive or negative) a wave reaches from its rest position.
  • Wavelength is the distance between the same spot on two sections of a wave.
  • A wave’s frequency can be measured by how many crests (or how many troughs) pass a location in a certain amount of time.
  • A wave with a larger frequency has more energy. If a wave’s frequency doubles, its energy also doubles.
  • A wave’s energy is proportional to the square of its amplitude. So, if a wave’s amplitude doubles, its energy increases by four times, because 22=4.

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