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Light waves and sound waves are types of waves and are both subject to reflection, refraction, and diffraction. However, despite these similarities, the two are different. Light waves are electromagnetic waves that are visible to the eye and can travel through a vacuum. Sound waves are mechanical waves, invisible to the human eye, and unable to travel in a vacuum. Read on for more information on the difference and properties of light and sound waves.
Light waves are electromagnetic waves that can be seen by the human eye. They are a form of radiation and are created when electrons are excited and revert to a lower energy state, therefore causing the release of protons. Electromagnetic waves like light waves do not require a medium to travel through, which means that they can pass through a vacuum-like space, as well as through air and the earth’s atmosphere.
There are different types of light waves:
Depending on the frequency of light waves, some can travel through solid objects, while others can travel through liquid and gases. Light is massless, meaning that it can travel through a vacuum, which is why we can see light sources from millions of miles away in the sky.
Light travels in a straight line, but the waves can be refracted, reflected, or diffracted. It travels at the equivalent of 300,000 kilometers per second. This is not only true of all forms of light waves but all electromagnetic waves as well.
Sound waves are mechanical waves and are created by the vibration of objects or matter. These vibrations cause pressure, and it is the waves of pressure that can be heard. Sound waves need some form of medium to be able to propagate and they cannot travel through a vacuum, hence the saying that nobody can hear you scream in space.
There are three primary types of sound:
Sound waves are longitudinal waves, which means that the particles of the medium they are traveling through all travel in the same direction. Except in very limited circumstances, all sound waves are longitudinal.
Soundwaves need a medium (something to travel through). This can be a solid, liquid, or gas, and they cannot travel through a vacuum, which means that sound doesn’t travel in space. In the air, sound travels at approximately 332 meters per second, which is approximately 1 million times slower than light.
Light and sound waves are two forms of waves that can be reflected, refracted, and diffracted. However, while light is an electromagnetic wave, sound is a mechanical wave. Light waves are created by the excitement of electrons and sound waves are formed when a medium vibrates.
Featured Image Credit: (L) Jan Huber, Unsplash | (R) Ritupon Baishya, Unsplash
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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