Sound and light are waves that have the same propagation and distribution; only that sound is a lot slower. Their waves refract, reflect, and attenuate relating to the environment. For instance, you will notice there’s a light switch on a certain roof while you’re down the hallway. You’ll be able to notice this light even though you haven’t seen the light bulb due to reflection.
Additionally, while outdooring at night, you usually notice a street light is dimmer when you’re far away from it than if you were standing below it. This is referred to as attenuation. Attaining uniform light across a large space is quite difficult, and it’s the same for sound as the waves exacerbated by the speed by which it travels. So what are the distinguishing factors between these two waves? Read on to find out.
Sound Waves Vs. Light Waves
The main differentiating factor between light and sound waves is that light waves are categorized as electromagnetic waves as they are visible to the human eye. In contrast, sound waves are categorized as mechanical waves since they are invisible. Furthermore, sound waves do not travel in a vacuum, but light waves can as they don’t need any means to travel.
Sound waves are longitudinal. They are mechanical waves because they are invisible to the human eye. It can also travel through all states of matter, including the solid, liquid, and gaseous states. They, however, need a medium for the waves to travel, a reason why they don’t travel in a vacuum.
On the other hand, light waves are referred to as electromagnetic waves because they are visible to the human eye. It travels anywhere since it doesn’t require a medium for it to travel. and therefore, it pretty much travels in a vacuum- an area that doesn’t have matter. They are not long and are transverse as they are visible to the human eye. The light generates charged particles of a medium making them visible.
What are Sound Waves?
Sound waves are longitudinal in nature. They are categorized as mechanical waves because they are not visible to the mortal eye. They travel through mediums like water, air, and solids, so it would be hard for them to travel through a vacuum where there is no matter. You’ll notice that sound travels faster in water than air.
While describing a sound wave, the focus usually goes to its amplitude. Here we look at how loud sound is in terms of frequency, intensity, and amplitude. In physics, they refer to sound as vibrations that are propagated to form a wave. The wave travels through mediums that are in gaseous, solids, and liquid states.
They are fastest in solids like iron, stones, and steel. They travel in the air at a speed of 335 meters per second. Sound is divided into two types, namely compression, and rarefaction. Those in compression are types of sound waves that travel when compressed, whereas those in rarefaction are types of sound ways that travel when they are apart.
A good example of sound not traveling in a vacuum is when astronauts fail to hear each other while in space. They’ll have to use a radio to hear each other.
What are Light Waves?
Light waves are categorized in the electromagnetic spectrum. The radiation is given by stars, the sun if you are talking about the earth. Like all other electromagnetic radiation, light waves are visible and can propagate as waves. There are therefore seen and heard by humans and animals. Christian Huygen was the first person to suggest that light can travel as a wave.
The waves are generated by oscillating electricity and do not depend on any medium for them to travel. They pretty much can travel through a vacuum where there is no matter. While in a vacuum, the speed of light is approximated to be 186,282 miles per second. Furthermore, when they hit on an object, they create shadows. It can, however, pass through any transparent objects and not form shadows.
They have three properties that can be measured they include wavelength, frequency, and amplitude. When talking about the wavelength of light, it’s usually short in size. It’s important to note that these waves come in various wavelengths that have different sizes. You will be able to differentiate different wavelengths with different colors. For example, rainbows have multiple spectrums of light waves.
Difference Between Light Waves and Sound Waves
- Sound waves are categorized as mechanical waves, while light waves are categorized as electromagnetic waves.
- The wavelength of sound is long. On the other hand, the wavelength of light is short.
- Sound waves cannot travel through a vacuum because there is no ounce of matter. For sound to travel, there is always a solid-liquid or gaseous medium in place. On the other hand, light waves do not require a medium to travel and therefore can travel in a vacuum.
- Sound waves are longitudinal in nature, whereas light waves are transverse in nature.
- Oscillating particles of medium form sound waves. Conversely, light waves are formed by charged particles of an oscillating medium.
Sound and light waves are part of our daily lives. These two phenomena keep balance on earth. Humans see and hear these two waves through our five senses. They function as energies. Light waves help in warming up the earth’s crust.
The two waves are somewhat similar but have various distinguishing factors, for one sound wave is longitudinal in nature, whereas light waves are transverse in nature. Light waves are electromagnetic, which means there are visible to the mortal eyes, on the other hand, sound waves are mechanical since they are not visible to the human eye.
As you can see, they are distinct from each other. They also have different goals and functions. The technical terms used for the light wave and sound wave are quite confusing, but their fundamental state is different. Owing to this, it’s best to have a clear understanding of the two terms.