# MAGIC through two MILLENIA

## WAVES AND WAVE MOTION - a summary

### General.

1. Waves come in a variety of types:

Longitudinal or Transverse ; Periodic or Aperiodic ; Travelling or Standing

In this course we will deal mainly with travelling, periodic, transverse waves.

2. For Periodic waves, we can define:

A : the amplitude (the maximum oscillation, measured from the "zero" position).
: the wavelength (the distance in which the wave repeats itself)
f : the frequency (the number of oscillations in one second)
V : the speed (the length of the wave passing a given point in one second)
I : the intensity of the wave (the amount of energy it carries).

Periodic waves come in many shapes and sizes - square, sinusoidal, sawtooth, to name but a few.

3. Due to these definitions, there is a relationship between wavelength, frequency and speed;

Speed = wavelength times frequency ( or V = f )

4. Since the speed of a wave in a given medium is constant, dependent on the elastic constants (at a given temperature, pressure, etc.) of the medium, this means that a wave with a low value of frequency has a long wavelength, and vice-versa.

5. One of the most important features of waves arises because of the Superposition Principle which states that the total effect of any number of waves at a point is due to a simple algebraic sum (i.e. the sign of the oscillation at that point has to be taken into account) of the individual contributions from each wave arriving at that point. Due to this principle, waves exhibit interference - examples are the double slit experiment, diffraction of waves; also standing waves can be thought of as the sum of two travelling waves going in opposite directions.

This means that waves can interfere with each other. An example is given in Figure I : here the waves lie exactly on top of each other and are said to be in phase - as a result their waves and troughs add up to provide an example of constructive interference. In Figure II however, the waves and troughs cancel each other out : the waves are said to be out of phase, and in this case they exhibit destructive interference so that their sum is zero.

The ability to interfere in this manner is an important signature of waves.

6. The Intensity, I, of a wave is proportional to the square of its amplitude; I = A2 .

7. When a wave encounters a physical object (e.g. an aperture in a barrier, or a small obstacle in the path of the wave) its effect depends on the relative size of the object d and the wavelength of the wave. (e.g. when a wave passes through an aperture in a barrier, the diffraction, or spreading out of the wave will be greater for small apertures). Specifically, note that if the wavelength is much smaller than d (  << d ), wavelike behaviour (interference) will not be noticed. If however the wavelength approaches d, interference effects will begin to be observed. In fact, this effect sets the limit on the resolution of optical instruments; for example, if two small objects are closer together than a distance which is about the size of the wavelength used to observe them, the interference effects make it hard or impossible to distinguish between them.

## THE NATURE OF LIGHT - the classical view.

Isaac Newton suggested that light, in view of its ability to travel in straight lines and form sharp shadows round opaque objects, was corpuscular in nature. This hypothesis, supported by Newton's authority and the lack of any contrary evidence, held sway till the 19th century when improved measurements allowed the observation of what appeared to be wave-like properties. The most famous of these experiments was that of  Thomas Young. Young illuminated a pair of closely spaced slits in an opaque screen with a monochromatic beam of light (light containing only one colour). On another screen, placed at some distance away from the first, on the other side of the light source, he observed interference fringes which are the unmistakeable sign of a wave process (see Figure III).

Assuming that light was a wave, the simple classical theory of waves could be used to give a complete description of the intensity distribution of the interference pattern. The calculation of where the the maxima and minima of this pattern should occur is so simple that it is worth repeating here.

The argument is quite simple. Imagine that you were situated exactly at the center of the detecting screen shown in Figure IV. If you were to look back at the double slit system, the distance the two rays from each slit would have to travel exactly the same distance to reach you. They would thus arrive exactly in phase, and would add constructively. If now you were to move a little to the side of the centre of the detecting screen, one ray would have to travel a slightly longer distance than the other to reach you. If the two distances from the slits differed by exactly one half wavelength, the two light waves would arrive exactly out of phase and would destructively interfere, so that you saw no light at that position on the screen. As you moved further away from the centre of the screen, the two rays would successively pass into and out of phase, and you would see maxima and minima in the intensity pattern.