# electromagnetic waves

## what are electromagnetic waves

An electromagnetic wave is a wave that consists of vibrating electric and magnetic fields. A familiar example will help you understand the fields that make up an electromagnetic wave. Think about a common bar magnet. It exerts magnetic force in an area surrounding it, called the magnetic field. You can see the magnetic field of a bar magnet in Figure 21.1. Because of this force field, a magnet can exert force on objects without touching them. They just have to be in its magnetic field. An electric field is similar to a magnetic field (see Figure 21.1). An electric field is an area of electrical force surrounding a charged particle. Like a magnetic field, an electric field can exert force on objects over a distance without actually touching them.

## how electromagnetic waves begin

An electromagnetic wave begins when an electrically charged particle vibrates. This is illustrated in Figure 21.2. When a charged particle vibrates, it causes the electric field surrounding it to vibrate as well. A vibrating electric field, in turn, creates a vibrating magnetic field (you can learn how this happens in the chapter "Electromagnetism"). The two types of vibrating fields combine to create an electromagnetic wave. You can see an animation of an electromagnetic wave at this URL: (1:31). MEDIA Click image to the left or use the URL below. URL:

## how electromagnetic waves travel

As you can see in Figure 21.2, the electric and magnetic fields that make up an electromagnetic wave occur are at right angles to each other. Both fields are also at right angles to the direction that the wave travels. Therefore, an electromagnetic wave is a transverse wave.

## no medium required

Unlike a mechanical transverse wave, which requires a medium, an electromagnetic transverse wave can travel through space without a medium. Waves traveling through a medium lose some energy to the medium. However, when an electromagnetic wave travels through space, no energy is lost, so the wave doesnt get weaker as it travels. However, the energy is "diluted" as it spreads out over an ever-larger area as it travels away from the source. This is similar to the way a sound wave spreads out and becomes less intense farther from the sound source.

## wave interactions

Electromagnetic waves can travel through matter as well as across space. When they strike matter, they interact with it in the same ways that mechanical waves interact with matter. They may reflect (bounce back), refract (bend when traveling through different materials), or diffract (bend around objects). They may also be converted to other forms of energy. Microwaves are a familiar example. They are a type of electromagnetic wave that you can read about later on in this chapter, in the lesson "The Electromagnetic Spectrum." When microwaves strike food in a microwave oven, they are converted to thermal energy, which heats the food.

## wave or particle

Electromagnetic radiation behaves like waves of energy most of the time, but sometimes it behaves like particles. As evidence accumulated for this dual nature of electromagnetic radiation, the famous physicist Albert Einstein developed a new theory about electromagnetic radiation, called the wave-particle theory. This theory explains how electromagnetic radiation can behave as both a wave and a particle. In brief, when an electron returns to a lower energy level, it is thought to give off a tiny "packet" of energy called a photon (see Figure 21.3). The amount of energy in a photon may vary. It depends on the frequency of electromagnetic radiation. The higher the frequency is, the more energy a photon has.

The most important source of electromagnetic radiation on Earth is the sun. Electromagnetic waves travel from the sun to Earth across space and provide virtually all the energy that supports life on our planet. Many other sources of electromagnetic waves that people use depend on technology. Radio waves, microwaves, and X rays are examples. We use these electromagnetic waves for communications, cooking, medicine, and many other purposes. Youll learn about all these types of electromagnetic waves in this chapters lesson on "The Electromagnetic Spectrum."

## instructional diagrams

No diagram descriptions associated with this lesson

## questions

Examples of electromagnetic waves include

``````a. radio waves.

b. light.

c. X rays.

-->  d. all of the above
``````

All of the following are examples of electromagnetic waves except

``````-->  a. sound waves.

b. microwaves.

c. gamma rays.

d. infrared light.
``````

A vibrating electric field creates a

``````a. mechanical wave.

b. charged particle.

-->  c. magnetic field.

d. photon.
``````

An electromagnetic wave begins when a(n)

``````a. atom loses an electron.

b. magnet is connected to a battery.

-->  c. charged particle vibrates.

d. electron is magnetize
``````

As an electromagnetic wave travels through space, it

``````a. becomes stronger.

b. keeps changing direction.

c. loses energy to the medium.

-->  d. spreads out over a larger area.
``````

Which of the following waves does not require a medium?

``````a. ocean waves

b. earthquake waves

c. sound waves

``````

Most of the electromagnetic radiation on Earth comes from

``````-->  a. the sun.

c. X ray machines.

d. microwave ovens.
``````

When electromagnetic waves strike matter, they may

``````a. reflect.

b. refract.

c. diffract.

-->  d. all of the above
``````

``````a. It provides virtually all the energy for life on Earth.

b. It behaves like a wave most of the time.

c. Sometimes it behaves like a particle.

-->  d. All of its wavelengths are harmful.
``````

``````a. cooking.

b. communications.

c. medicine.

-->  d. all of the above
``````

What do radio waves and sound waves have in common?

``````a. Both waves are transverse waves.

b. Both waves are mechanical waves.

-->  c. Both waves transfer energy.

d. Both waves need a medium.
``````

An electromagnetic wave consists of a vibrating

``````a. magnetic field.

b. electric field.

c. particle of matter.

-->  d. two of the above
``````

When a charged particle vibrates, it causes the electric field around it to vibrate.

``````-->  a. true

b. false
``````

The two fields of an electromagnetic wave occur at right angles to each other.

``````-->  a. true

b. false
``````

Both fields of an electromagnetic wave vibrate in the same direction that the wave travels.

``````a. true

-->  b. false
``````

The wave-particle theory explains the difference between electromagnetic and mechanical waves.

``````a. true

-->  b. false
``````

Electromagnetic waves cannot travel through matter.

``````a. true

-->  b. false
``````

A vibrating electric field generates a charged particle.

``````a. true

-->  b. false
``````

Electromagnetic waves may spread out and travel around obstacles.

``````-->  a. true

b. false
``````

When electrons return to lower energy levels, they give off particles of matter.

``````a. true

-->  b. false
``````

All electromagnetic radiation is dangerous except for light.

``````a. true

-->  b. false
``````

Electromagnetic waves are used for communications, cooking, and medicine.

``````-->  a. true

b. false
``````

Electromagnetic radiation provides the energy that plants need for photosynthesis.

``````-->  a. true

b. false
``````

An electromagnetic wave gains energy as it travels across space.

``````a. true

-->  b. false
``````

The human eye can detect all frequencies of electromagnetic waves.

``````a. true

-->  b. false
``````

All of the suns electromagnetic radiation travels to Earth.

``````a. true

-->  b. false
``````

Einstein explained how light can behave both as a wave and as a particle.

``````-->  a. true

b. false
``````

transfer of energy by waves such as radio waves and light

``````a. photon

b. electromagnetic wave

c. magnetic field

d. transverse wave

f. wave-particle theory

g. electric field
``````

explanation for how light can behave as both a wave and a particle

``````a. photon

b. electromagnetic wave

c. magnetic field

d. transverse wave

-->  f. wave-particle theory

g. electric field
``````

invisible area of force surrounding a charged particle

``````a. photon

b. electromagnetic wave

c. magnetic field

d. transverse wave

f. wave-particle theory

-->  g. electric field
``````

wave in which vibrations occur at right angles to the direction the wave travels

``````a. photon

b. electromagnetic wave

c. magnetic field

-->  d. transverse wave

f. wave-particle theory

g. electric field
``````

packet of electromagnetic energy

``````-->  a. photon

b. electromagnetic wave

c. magnetic field

d. transverse wave

f. wave-particle theory

g. electric field
``````

wave that consists of vibrating electric and magnetic fields

``````a. photon

-->  b. electromagnetic wave

c. magnetic field

d. transverse wave

f. wave-particle theory

g. electric field
``````

invisible area of force surrounding a magnet

``````a. photon

b. electromagnetic wave

-->  c. magnetic field

d. transverse wave