Waves and sounds

Matter waves are of two types, which differ only in the direction of the vibration relative to the direction of propagation. In transverse waves the vibration is perpendicular to the direction of propagation (a plucked violin string, for example). In longitudinal waves the vibration is parallel to the direction of propagation (the pressure waves from a blast, or in front of a piston, for example). Most of the matter waves which are of interest here are, like water waves, a combination of both.

Sound can be used as a familiar illustration of waves. Because hearing is one of our most important senses, it is interesting to see how the physical properties of sound correspond to our perceptions of it. Hearing is the perception of sound, just as vision is the perception of visible light. But sound has important applications beyond hearing. Ultrasound, for example, is not heard but can be employed to form medical images and is also used in treatment.

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