What Kind of Motion Should You Impart to a Stretched Coil Spring to Provide a Transverse and a Longitudinal Wave?


Quick Answer

In a stretched coil spring, longitudinal waves occur when the spring is pulled or pushed parallel to the line created by the stretched spring, and transverse waves are created when the spring is moved perpendicular to that line. If the coils bunch and then separate, the wave is longitudinal; if the spring curves to form moving crests and troughs, the wave is transverse.

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Full Answer

In longitudinal waves, also called compression waves or primary waves, particles experience compression and rarefaction in the direction of the traveling wave. This phenomenon can be easily observed in a stretched spring or objects such as a Slinky, and it can illustrate how waves, such as sound waves, travel.

Transverse waves, sometimes called secondary waves, move across the direction of the wave. The particles move perpendicular to the direction of the traveling wave.

According to Daniel Russell of Pennsylvania State University, the motion of a water surface has examples of both longitudinal and transverse waves. When observed from above, a ripple looks like a longitudinal wave because the waves are pushing away from the center of the ripple, and the particles are moving in the direction of the wave. However, when viewed from the side, the wave looks like it is moving up and down as the wave travels across the surface of the water. Because some of the motion of the water is perpendicular to the direction of the wave, a ripple is also a transverse wave.

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