Transverse Waves

For transverse waves the displacement of the medium is perpendicular to the direction of propagation of the wave. A ripple on a pond and a wave on a string are easily visualized transverse waves.

Transverse waves cannot propagate in a gas or a liquid because there is no mechanism for driving motion perpendicular to the propagation of the wave.


Longitudinal Waves

In longitudinal waves the displacement of the medium is parallel to the propagation of the wave. A wave in a "slinky" is a good visualization. Sound waves in air are longitudinal waves.


Geologic example
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Traveling wave concepts

Sound propagation concepts
 
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Sound Waves in Air

A single-frequency sound wave traveling through air will cause a sinusoidal pressure variation in the air. The air motion which accompanies the passage of the sound wave will be back and forth in the direction of the propagation of the sound, a characteristic of longitudinal waves.

Ear's sensitivity to such waves
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Periodic motion concepts
 
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