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Physics - Transverse Waves (AQA Syllabus A)

Electromagnetic and mechanical waves are both studied in GCSE Science. This is one of six quizzes on that topic and it looks specifically at transverse waves.

When asked to draw a diagram of a wave in science, most people would probably draw a wiggly line as that resembles the waves that you see on water. That type of wave is called a transverse wave. Waves are formed by vibrations and create oscillations (posh word for vibrations) in the medium through which they pass. Transverse waves cause oscillations at right angles to the direction they are travelling. That is how they get their name - transverse means across.

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Mechanical waves make the particles of the medium itself vibrate. Sound is a mechanical wave but not a transverse wave, so it is dealt with in a different quiz. Earthquake waves, other than the P waves, are transverse and they make the particles of the ground shake from side to side as they pass - with devastating consequences. Water waves and ripples are mechanical waves and they cause the water molecules to vibrate up and down as they pass.

Electromagnetic waves are also transverse waves, but they don't need a physical medium to travel - in fact they travel better where it is just empty space. They cause oscillations in the electric and magnetic fields that are everywhere in the universe, hence their name. For the exam, you are expected to know the order of electromagnetic waves within the spectrum in terms of energy, frequency and wavelength.

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  1. The distance from any point on one wave to the same point on the next wave is called what?
    It is usually shown as being from the top of one crest to the top of the next crest
  2. Under what conditions does refraction not take place?
    If a wave is travelling along the normal it will cross from one medium into another without being refracted
  3. As transverse seismic waves pass through the Earth, they must travel through several different layers. These layers have different densities. What happens to these waves when they reach a boundary between the layers?
    When any transverse wave passes from one medium into another that has a different density, some of the energy is reflected and some is refracted. How much of each depends on the angle. At the critical angle, all of the energy is reflected
  4. Which of these statements about the frequency of a transverse wave is true?
    High frequency waves have short wavelengths and vice versa
  5. Which of the following statements about X-rays is correct?
    They are part of the electromagnetic spectrum and are therefore transverse waves
  6. What is the amplitude of a transverse wave?
    On a diagram of a transverse wave, the amplitude is the 'height' of the wave measured from the rest (equilibrium) position to the lowest point of a trough or to the highest point of a crest
  7. Which of the following answers places these waves of the electromagnetic spectrum in the correct order of increasing frequency?

    1. Visible light
    2. Radio waves
    3. Microwaves
    4. Ultra violet
    5. Infrared
    You need to know the order of the electromagnetic spectrum. If you learn it thoroughly in one direction using one property (e.g. the order in increasing wavelength) you can work out any other orders that the questions might throw at you. For example, the order in increasing energy would be the reverse of the order of wavelength because the shorter wavelength electromagnetic radiation carries more energy
  8. When a transverse wave passes through a gap that is about the same width as its wavelength, which of the following is not true?
    Diffraction is when a wave spreads out as it passes through a gap that is about the same as its wavelength
  9. Why do transverse waves refract when they enter a more dense medium?
    The opposite is true when they travel from more dense into less dense media
  10. When drawing a diagram to measure the angle of refraction, a student drew a broken (dashed) line at right angles to the boundary. What is the name of this line and which way would the wave refract?
    The missing information for this question is whether or not the wave was entering a more dense or less dense medium

Author: Kev Woodward

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