Bell Ringers: Waves

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Properties of Waves

Use the arrows located at the bottom of the presentation to navigate through all the bell ringer questions.

  1. Misconception: Waves always involve the physical movement of matter from one place to another.

    • Explanation: Waves transfer energy, not matter. In mechanical waves, such as water waves, particles of the medium move temporarily from their resting position but return to it, transferring energy through the medium. In contrast, electromagnetic waves do not require a medium and can transfer energy through a vacuum.
  2. Misconception: All waves travel through air, water, or solid materials.

    • Explanation: While mechanical waves need a medium (like air, water, or solids) to travel, electromagnetic waves (like light and radio waves) can travel through a vacuum, where there is no matter.
  3. Misconception: The amplitude of a wave is related to its speed.

    • Explanation: The amplitude of a wave relates to its energy and intensity, not its speed. The speed of a wave depends on the medium through which it is traveling and, for electromagnetic waves, remains constant in a vacuum.
  4. Misconception: Sound waves can travel through space.

    • Explanation: Sound waves are mechanical waves that require a medium (solid, liquid, or gas) to travel. In the vacuum of space, where there is no medium, sound waves cannot propagate.
  5. Misconception: The wavelength of a wave is the distance between two crests or two troughs.

    • Explanation: This is true for transverse waves, but for longitudinal waves, the wavelength is the distance between two consecutive compressions or two rarefactions, not crests or troughs.
  6. Misconception: The Doppler effect only applies to sound waves.

    • Explanation: The Doppler effect, which is the change in frequency or wavelength of a wave in relation to an observer moving relative to the source of the wave, applies to all types of waves, including sound and electromagnetic waves. This is why we observe both the sound of a passing siren change in pitch and the light from stars shift in color as they move away from or towards us.

Light Waves

Use the arrows located at the bottom of the presentation to navigate through all the bell ringer questions.

  1. Misconception: Light only travels in straight lines.

    • Explanation: While light does travel in straight lines in a uniform medium, it can bend or change direction when it moves from one medium to another due to refraction. Light also exhibits properties of waves and particles, allowing it to diffract around obstacles and through slits.
  2. Misconception: Shadows are formed because light stops moving.

    • Explanation: Shadows form when an opaque object blocks the straight-line path of light, preventing the light from reaching the area behind the object. Light doesn’t stop; it simply doesn’t reach the shadowed area.
  3. Misconception: Light is only visible when it shines on an object.

    • Explanation: Light is always present and travels through space even if there is nothing for it to illuminate. We see light because it enters our eyes, either directly from a light source or after reflecting off an object.
  4. Misconception: Color is a property of light itself.

    • Explanation: Color is not a property of light but rather how our eyes perceive different wavelengths of light. Objects absorb some wavelengths and reflect others; we see the color of the reflected wavelengths.
  5. Misconception: The sun emits yellow light.

    • Explanation: The sun emits white light, which is a mixture of all the visible colors. The sky appears blue during the day due to the scattering of shorter wavelengths (blue) by the atmosphere, and the sun can appear yellow, orange, or red, especially at sunrise or sunset, due to the atmosphere scattering the shorter wavelengths more and allowing the longer wavelengths (such as red and orange) to reach our eyes.
  6. Misconception: Light waves can only be waves, not particles.

    • Explanation: Light exhibits properties of both waves and particles, a concept known as wave-particle duality. As waves, light exhibits refraction, diffraction, and interference. As particles (photons), light can be absorbed or emitted by atoms, explaining phenomena like the photoelectric effect.
  7. Misconception: Light travels instantaneously from one place to another.

    • Explanation: Light has a finite speed of approximately 299,792 kilometers per second (186,282 miles per second) in a vacuum. It takes time for light to travel from one point to another, although this time is often imperceptibly short over everyday distances.
  8. Misconception: Mirrors flip images left to right.

    • Explanation: Mirrors actually reverse images front to back (in depth), not left to right. The perception of a left-to-right flip is due to the way our brains interpret the image in relation to our own body’s orientation.
  9. Misconception: All materials are either completely transparent or completely opaque to light.

    • Explanation: Materials can exhibit a range of behaviors with light, including transparency, translucency, and opacity, depending on the material’s properties and the wavelength of the light. Some materials may allow light to partially pass through (translucent) or completely block it (opaque), while others let light pass with little to no obstruction (transparent).
  10. Misconception: Laser light is always visible.

    • Explanation: Laser light, like any other light, is only visible when it either directly enters the eye or scatters off particles (such as dust or water droplets) towards the observer. A laser beam traveling through a clean vacuum or clear air is not visible from the side.