Why are electromagnetic waves called waves even though they don't travel through a medium?

ljudskija7s

ljudskija7s

Answered

2022-08-13

Why are electromagnetic waves called waves even though they don't travel through a medium?

Answer & Explanation

Clare Chung

Clare Chung

Expert

2022-08-14Added 9 answers

The definition of a wave is not that it is the oscillation of a medium. Waves are called waves because they are solutions to a wave equation, which is, for a generic "excitation" A ( t , x ) depending on the time t and some spatial coordinate x R n , of the general form
2 A t 2 = c 2 Δ A
where Δ is the Laplacian for the spatial coordinate. The wave equation, in turn, is called a wave equation because it is precisely the equation that governs the archetypical system where a wave occurs - that of masses linearly connected by springs.
While a wave equation may arise from considering a medium, a medium is not necessary for a wave equation to occur, as Maxwell's equations and the disproof of almost all luminiferous aether theories show.

Do you have a similar question?

Recalculate according to your conditions!

Ask your question.
Get your answer.

Let our experts help you. Answer in as fast as 15 minutes.

Didn't find what you were looking for?