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Longitudinal Waves


A wave is the disturbance a particle carries. It might be due to clapping of hands or water waves. Basically wave motion can be of two types - either longitudinal or transverse. In the longitudinal wave the wave particles displace parallel to the direction of wave propagation but in transverse this happens in the perpendicular direction of the wave particles. Let see more about the longitudinal waves.

Longitudinal Wave Definition

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A Longitudinal wave is that where the particles of the medium are displaced in a direction either parallel or anti parallel to the direction of energy transport. Here the vibration of particles will be back and forth that leads to compressions and rarefactions. The vibrations of guitar string and whistle blown propagated in air illustrate the longitudinal waves.

Longitudinal Wave
Longitudinal waves in the spring
Have you ever thought what exactly the sound is? How come the term sound waves came?

The sound is nothing but the disturbance the ear can sense. The sound gets transferred in the form of waves from a point to another what we call it as sound waves. The medium that propagates it might be solid, liquid or gases. It is a longitudinal wave as the particles vibrate back and forth that transfers the energy. Let's take the vibration of tuning fork as a simple example of sound waves.

Sound Wave Example
You could see the vibration expressing the compression and rarefaction in it.
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Is Light a Longitudinal Wave?

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A light wave is a transverse waves as the wave propagates perpendicular to energy transfer. Here the electric and magnetic field fluctuates frequently perpendicular to the direction of wave that gives out light energy.
Light Wave
Light wave having fluctuating electric and magnetic field

Types of Longitudinal Waves

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There are many types of longitudinal waves that includes sound waves, some kind of surface waves. The p-waves are the surface waves that are pressure waves seen during earthquakes which shakes the earth backward and forward.

Examples of Longitudinal Waves

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Lets go through some examples on longitudinal waves:
  • Speakers giving out sound waves
  • Vibrations in tuning fork
  • A boy playing a guitar
  • Crowd clapping for a music show