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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: 2006-02-26
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.


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