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ZingPath: Wave Interference and Diffraction

Diffraction of Water Waves

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Wave Interference and Diffraction

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Diffraction of Water Waves

Physics

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You will get to learn about interference, superposition, and diffraction of waves. Try your hand at superposing waveforms, and learn how noise-cancelling headphones work.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Define diffraction of water waves.
  • Understand how the diffraction of water waves is affected by the width of an opening through which a wave travels, as well as by the wave’s wavelength.

Everything You'll Have Covered

What happens to a water wave when it encounters an obstacle with a narrow opening?

~ When a water wave encounters an obstacle with a narrow opening, the wave bends, or is diffracted as it passes through the opening.

How does the diffraction pattern of the water wave vary depending on the size of the opening in the obstacle?

~ If the wave is forced through a narrow opening whose length is smaller than the wavelength, the diffracted wave appears circular. If the wave is forced through a wider opening whose length is larger than the wavelength, the diffracted wave looks like a straight line that is bent only at its corners.

Why would the diffraction of a wave from a linear object be difficult to observe if the object is too large?

~ The diffraction of a wave from a linear object would be difficult to observe if the object is too large because a large object would reflect much of the wave, which would result in a diffraction pattern that is small and at the corners.

How is diffraction affected by the wavelength of the wave?

~ Assuming that the width of the opening in the surface is constant, the greater the wavelength of the wave, the more the wave will diffract.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 2 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Students should have a general understanding of diffraction, obstacle size, and physics.
Course Physics
Type of Tutorial Animation
Key Vocabulary diffraction, obstacle size, physics