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Mechanical waves and light

Review your understanding of mechanical waves and light in this free article aligned to NGSS standards.

Key points:

  • Some waves can only travel through a material, or medium, such as air or water. These are called mechanical waves.
    • Sound waves, water waves, and seismic waves are all types of mechanical waves.
  • Other waves, called electromagnetic waves can travel through a medium or through a vacuum where there is no matter, such as outer space.
    • Light is a form of electromagnetic wave.
  • The amplitude and frequency of both mechanical and electromagnetic waves affect how we experience them.
    • A light wave’s amplitude determines how intense, or bright, it is. Its frequency determines the light wave’s color.
    • A sound wave’s amplitude determines how loud it is. Its frequency determines the sound wave’s pitch.

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