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How do radio waves work?

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Quick Answer

Radio waves work as a form of electromagnetic radiation. They are a mixture of magnetism and electricity that moves at the speed of light with a defined length and frequency.

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Full Answer

Radio waves travel throughout space at frequencies between 10 kHz and 100GHz per second. They possess regular patterns and have the longest wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. Radio waves maintain a uniform frequency and amplitude at all times. As a result, data can be placed into radio waves through amplitude and frequency modulation.

The signals carried by radio waves are received by antennas within cell phones, televisions and radios. When these signals are received, a radio tuner is applied to tune into particular signals. The tuner is configured to isolate specific frequencies and ignore others.

Antennas and radio receivers capture and propagate radio waves to convert them to specific signals. When listening to a radio station, the numbers before the FM or AM refer to the frequency. For example, 92.3 FM refers to a signal at a frequency of 92.3 megahertz or 92.3 millions of cycles per second. All FM radio stations transmit bands of frequencies between 88 MHZ and 108 MHZ, while all AM radio stations are confined to frequencies between 535 and 1,700 kilohertz or thousands of cycles per second.

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