What is a wavelength?

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megamind-616's profile pic

megamind-616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Wavelength is a characteristic of transverse waves (those that have the shape of an ocean wave). The peaks of these waves are referred to as crests. The bottoms of transverse waves are called the troughs. Wavelength is simply the measure of the distance between two consecutive crests, or two adjacent troughs. 

The wavelength of a transverse wave is inversely proportional to the wave's frequency (this means that as the wavelength distance increases, the frequency will decrease). The frequency of a wave is defined as the number of waves passing a given point within a given amount of time. 

The link found below provides an interactive website that allows you to explore the wavelength property of a transverse wave. 

I hope this helps. Good luck! 

Sources:
gsenviro's profile pic

gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Wavelength is a wave property and is (traditionally) defined as the distance between any two successive crests (highest points in wave oscillation) or troughs (lowest points in wave oscillation). In fact, we can use any two successive similar points on wave to determine its wavelength. The wavelength is closely related to the frequency of the wave by the following relation:

`lambda = v/f`

where, `lambda`  is the wavelength of the wave, v is wave velocity in the given medium and f is the wave's frequency. 

Using this relation and knowing that velocity of wave is a function of the medium (for example, vacuum, air, water, etc.) in which it is traveling, we can see that wavelength is a also a function of the medium in which the wave is traveling.

Hope this helps. 

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