A wave is a disturbance that transfers energy from one place to another without requiring any net flow of mass.
Waves can be broadly separated into pulses and periodic waves. A pulse is a single disturbance while a periodic wave is a continually oscillating motion. There is a close connection between simple harmonic motion and periodic waves; in most periodic waves, the particles in the medium experience simple harmonic motion.
Waves can also be separated into transverse and longitudinal waves. In a transverse wave, the motion of the particles of the medium is at right angles (i.e., transverse) to the direction the wave moves. In a longitudinal wave, such as a sound wave, the particles oscillate along the direction of motion of the wave.
Surface waves, such as water waves, are generally a combination of a transverse and a longitudinal wave. The particles on the surface of the water travel in circular paths as a wave moves across the surface.
A periodic wave generally follows a sine wave pattern, as shown in the diagram.
A number of parameters can be defined to describe a periodic wave:
wavelength – the length of one cycle
amplitude – the maximum distance a particle gets from its undisturbed position
period (T) – time required for one cycle
frequency (f = 1/T) – number of cycles in a certain time, usually in 1 second.
speed – this is given by v = frequency x wavelength
Note that the frequency of the wave is set by whatever is producing the disturbance, while the speed is determined by the properties of the medium. The wavelength can then be found from the equation above.
A sine wave oscillation is also followed by each particle in the medium, as the following diagram shows:
There is a big difference between what the wave does and what the particles in the medium do. As the wave travels through the medium, the particles of the medium oscillate in response to the wave. In a uniform medium, the wave travels at constant speed; each particle, however, has a speed that is constantly changing. The maximum speed of a particle is determined by the wave amplitude and frequency.
Lab from my year:
In this lab I had to investigate the details regarding the interference of two waves traveling in the same medium. I had to use another website for the waves, and what I found/learned is how different materials (mediums) interfere with waves and how waves can interfere with each other when traveling in the same medium against each other and with each other.