# Yerkes Summer Institute 2002

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2 the unit that is associated with it is Hertz (Hz). When you say that a wave has a frequency of 1-Hz you are saying that it has one cycle per second. Another way of saying this is that one complete wave passes a given point in one second of time. Common Frequency Units Hz = hertz = 1 cycle/second KHz = kilohertz = thousand (1,000) cycles/second MHz = megahertz = million (1,000,000) cycles/second GHz = gigahertz = a thousand million (1,000,000,000) cycles/second Waves that you see and make in water are mechanical waves, as are sound waves. Both require stuff or a medium to travel through. The sound waves that you hear when someone speaks push air that hits your eardrum. The compressions of the wave cause a vibration on your eardrum, which you translate into sound. This sound can be speech, music, or simply noise. The media that water waves travel in is, not surprisingly, water. Mechanical waves can switch media that they are traveling in. For instance, when a wave crashes on the beach we can hear it or if music is played really, really loud it can vibrate walls. However mechanical waves always need something to travel in. There is another group of waves called electromagnetic waves that can travel in certain media and in a vacuum. Electromagnetic waves have the same characteristic parts as mechanical waves (e.g., wavelength, amplitude, frequency, etc), but they behave very differently. Sound waves travel in air at a speed of approximately 344 meters/second, while electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light (300,000,000 meters/second). While mechanical waves need something to move in e.g., air or water, electromagnetic waves can travel in a vacuum. Another important characteristic of electromagnetic waves is that they will travel in a straight line unless something changes their course (e.g., think of a laser beam). Electromagnetic waves have many uses and span an enormous range of frequencies and corresponding wavelengths as you can see in the diagram below. Background - ii

3 (Fig 2) Long (low energy, low frequency) electromagnetic waves like radio and television are on one end of the spectrum, while short (high energy, high frequency) waves like x-rays and gamma rays are on the other end of the spectrum. As you can see visible light, the electromagnetic radiation that our eyes can sense, occupies only a very small sliver of the spectrum. Electromagnetic radiation consists of interconnected changing electric and magnetic fields (see Fig 3). One way to produce such waves is to wiggle something that is electrically charged such as an electron, a tiny charged particle that is part of an atom. Moving a charged particle back and forth produces changing electric and magnetic fields. One should keep in mind that things need to wiggle very very fast as even low frequency radio waves are on the order of a million cycles per second. At each point along the wave there is an electric field and an associated magnetic field that are at a right angles to each other as well as to the direction of the forward movement of the wave. (Fig 3) Background - iii

8 Glossary Antenna-- a usually metallic device (such as a wire or rod ) for radiating or receiving radio waves. Electric Field -- a region associated with a distribution of electric charge or a varying magnetic field in which forces due to that charge or field act upon other electric charges. Magnetic Field-- the portion of space near a magnetic body or a current-carrying body in which the magnetic forces due to the body or current can be detected Oscillator -- a device for producing alternating current, especially: a radio frequency or audio frequency generator. Resonance -- a vibration of large amplitude in a mechanical or electrical system caused by a relatively small periodic stimulus of the same or nearly the same period as the natural vibration period of the system. Transformer -- a device used to convert variations of current in a primary circuit into variations of voltage and current in a secondary circuit. Image Credits Fig 2 Fig 3 light/s2.htm Fig 4 juge.org/ed/ruiindx.htm Fig 5 crystal/intro.htm Fig 6 wave_motion&sound-iii.htm Fig 7 Fig 8 swings/swings.html Fig 9 quartz/resonance.html Fig 10 BIOBK/BioBookPS.html Background - viii

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