
Dear Scienceline, I am doing an experiment for
school involving wave energy, the problem is, I
can't figure out a way to compare the crest,
trough, wavelength, and frequency of a wave to
show how much wave energy there is. I also don't
completely understand what wave energy is. Please
help me.

Question Date: 20060226   Answer 1:
You have picked a very interesting experiment.
Let us first review the terms having to do with
the wave. You have crest which is the top point
or peak of the wave, the trough which is the
lowest point of the wave. Wavelength is the
distance between two crests (or two troughs). Now
it gets a little more difficult...The frequency of
a wave is the number of crests (or troughs) that
pass a given point in a certain amount of time.
So if you dropped a stone in a pond you would see
the waves expand outward in a circle from the
point where you dropped the stone. If you pick a
certain spot and then time each wave passing
through that spot you will get the frequency.
Measuring the wavelength would be a bit more
difficult as the waves are moving and the math
involved is pretty difficult for the level taught
at your age group, but not to worry you will soon
understand it. The same is true for wave energy.
The energy of the wave is related to its
wavelength. If you have a very large wavelength
the crest to crest distance is big, the wave
will be low in energy. When the wavelengths are
very small then the wave will be high in energy.
So we say that energy and wavelength are inversely
related. I am sorry that I could not be of more
help at this time, but feel free to write back
with more specifics on your project and I will let
you know of any other ideas I have. Also, check
out this website... it talks more about waves and
includes pictures that may help in what I was
describing about wavelengths, crests and troughs,
etc.
waves
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