Behavior of Waves
- Waves have the following behaviors:
- Refraction is the bending of waves caused by a change in their speed as they pass from one medium to another.
- As waves pass at an angle from one medium to another, they may speed up or slow down.
- The greater the change in speed of the waves, the more the waves will bend.
- Refraction of light going from air through a convex lens, for example, can make images appear larger as the light waves bend.
- Prisms or diffraction gratings separate white light into its different components or colors by bending the light at different angles depending on the frequencies of the light passing through the prism or diffraction grating. Different colors of light have different frequencies.
- Reflection is the bouncing back of a wave when it meets a surface or boundary that does not absorb the entire wave’s energy.
- All types of waves can be reflected.
- Reflections of sound waves, for example, are called echoes and help bats and dolphins learn about their environments.
- Plane mirrors and other smooth surfaces reflect light to form clear images.
- Transmission of waves occurs when waves pass through a given point or medium.
- Sound waves are transmitted through solids, liquids, and gases.
- Light waves are transmitted through transparent materials (may be clear or colored material such as filters) that allow most of the light that strikes them to pass through them.
- Only a small amount of light is reflected or absorbed.
- Opaque materials allow no light waves to be transmitted through them.
- Translucent materials transmit some light, but cause it to be scattered so no clear image is seen.
- Absorption of certain frequencies of light occurs when the energy is not transferred through, or reflected by, the given medium.
- Objects or substances that absorb any wavelength of electromagnetic radiation become warmer and convert the absorbed energy to infrared radiation.