what is the difference between a longitudinal and transverse waves
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The differences between Longitudinal and and Transverse waves is their motion in which direction they go. See examples below.
Longitudinal Waves- http://tinyurl.com/pupsxyh
Transverse Waves- http://tinyurl.com/qjpyzv6
Image of transverse wave parameters
Transverse Wave Parameters
If you recall from your previous lessons, a wave is a disturbance that travels through a medium from one place to another. Waves originate from the vibrations that initially disturb the medium. They transport energy as they travel through the medium, but they don't carry any matter along with them. To visualize a wave, we've used images like this one, which clearly show parameters like amplitude and wavelength. This type of 'up and down' wave, which looks like a water wave, is called a transverse wave. It's called this because the motion of the particles in the wave medium is perpendicular to the wave's direction. Let's say for a moment that this IS a water wave. The wave moves in this direction, like a beach wave moving toward the shore. But the particles in the medium - that is, the molecules of water - are NOT traveling toward the shore. They're simply oscillating up and down with each successive wave. Now compare the direction of the water molecules' movement to the direction the wave is traveling. What do you see? The two directions are perpendicular to each other. That's what makes this a transverse wave.
Transverse waves are what you typically think of when you hear the word 'wave'. The waves you can make on a jump rope, on a guitar string, or in the water are all transverse waves. So are electromagnetic waves, like visible light and X-rays, and the waves created by audience members at a football game. In every case, the particles of the medium carrying the wave are moving up and down, or side to side, while the wave itself is moving in a line at right angles to that motion. Let's take the stadium wave, for example. The people sitting in the stands wait for the wave to come to them from one side. When it arrives, the people stand up, and then sit down. The wave continues on to the other side of those people. While the motion of the wave is from left to right, the motion of the people is up and down. The people move perpendicular to the direction of a wave.
The tightly coiled area of the slinky represents a longitudinal wave compression
But not all waves are transverse waves. Sometimes, the wave medium oscillates parallel to the wave's direction. In these cases, the wave is called a longitudinal wave. Longitudinal waves are a bit challenging to imagine, so let's use a slinky for reference. Imagine a long slinky is stretched out across a tabletop, with one end fixed. Imagine if you were holding the opposite end, and you applied a quick push-pull motion to the slinky. The push would cause a compression to form, which would travel down the slinky to the opposite end. This is what a longitudinal wave looks like. The motion of the oscillating medium - in this case, the slinky - is parallel to the motion of the wave itself.
Longitudinal waves don't have crests and troughs like transverse waves. But they do exhibit features that can be treated as the same thing. We already said that our longitudinal wave began with a compression. The compression here is similar to the crest; it's the point of maximum density on the medium of a wave. The opposite of a compression is a rarefaction, the point of minimum density on the wave medium. If the medium is our slinky, then the compressions are the points where the coils in the slinky are closest together. The rarefactions are the points where the coils are furthest apart. Compressions and rarefactions alternate along the length of the medium, just like crests and troughs do in a transverse wave. You can actually determine the wavelength by measuring the distance between compressions, or between rarefactions. In a longitudinal wave, compressions and rarefactions slide from one end to the other, in the same direction that the wave travels.
So where can we see longitudinal waves in real life? The best example is a sound wave. Sound, including ultrasound and infrasonic waves, can travel well through a variety of substances. When sound waves travel through the air, they create pressure distortions in the air molecules. The distortions are compressions and rarefactions in the air, which in this case, is the medium. The air particles move back and forth in a direction parallel to that of the traveling sound wave.