Glossary and terms for Physics

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Glossary and Terms for Physics

Absorption – Absorption is when some of the wave’s energy is taken away when a wave encounters a medium.

Amplitude – The measure of the displacement of the wave from its rest position. The higher the amplitude of a wave, the higher is its energy.

Coherence – Two waves are said to be coherent when they have a constant phase difference between them.

Crest – The crest is the highest point of a wave. The opposite of the crest is the trough.

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Diffraction – Diffraction is when a wave remains in the same medium, but bends around an obstacle.

Electromagnetic Waves – Electromagnetic waves are waves that can travel through a vacuum. They do not need a medium. Light is a type of electromagnetic wave.

Frequency – The frequency of a wave is the number of times per second that a wave cycles. The frequency is the inverse of the period.

Intensity – A measurement of the strength of a sound wave that is equal to the power divided by the area.

Interference – Interference is when one wave comes into contact with another wave.

Light-wave – A light wave is a special type of electromagnetic wave that has a frequency in the visible spectrum.

Longitudinal – A longitudinal wave is a wave where the disturbance travels in the same direction as the wave. Sound waves are longitudinal.

Mechanical Waves – A mechanical wave is a wave that must travel through some sort of matter called a
medium. Mechanical waves cannot travel through a vacuum like outer space.

Medium – The medium is the matter that a wave travels through.

Period – The period of a wave is the time between wave crests. It is the inverse of the frequency.

Polarization – Polarization is when a wave oscillates in one particular direction. Light waves are sometimes polarized by a special polarizing filter.

Reflection – Reflection occurs when a wave bounces off a boundary, changing direction but remaining in the same medium.

Read More: Law of reflection of light

Refraction – The change in direction and wavelength when a wave moves from one medium to another.

Read More: Laws of refraction of light

Refractive Index – A refractive index is a number that describes how light travels through a specific medium. Different mediums have different refractive indexes. The refractive index of a vacuum is defined to be 1.

Resonance – Resonance is the tendency for a system to oscillate with greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others.

Resting position – The resting position is the position the medium would take if there were no wave. It is represented on a graph by a line through the centre of the wave.

Sound wave – Sound waves are mechanical waves that are caused by vibration. Sound waves can be heard by our ears.

Speed – The speed of a wave is a measure of how fast the disturbance of the wave is moving. The speed can be dependent on the type of medium that a wave is moving through.

Standing wave – A standing wave is a wave that remains in a constant position.

Transverse – A transverse wave is a wave where the disturbance moves perpendicular to the direction of the wave.

Wave – A wave is a travelling disturbance that moves through space and matter. Waves transfer energy from one place to another, but not matter.

Wavelength – The wavelength of a wave is the distance between two corresponding points on back-to-back cycles of a wave. For example, between two crests of a wave.

Trough – The trough is the lowest part of the wave. The opposite of the trough is the crest.

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