Comparing Light Waves and Sound Waves

Light Waves

Light waves are a type of electromagnetic waves that are responsible for the sensation of sight. These waves can travel through a vacuum, such as space, allowing us to observe objects in space from Earth.

Sound Waves

Sound waves are mechanical waves that require a medium, (e.g. air, water or a solid substance) to carry their energy forward.

They are created by vibrations, like a plucked guitar string or a speaking voice, which cause compressions and rarefactions in the surrounding medium. These waves allow us to hear sounds, from the softest whisper to the loudest explosion.

Light Waves vs Sound Waves

The table below shows us the differences between light and sound waves.

Light wavesSound waves
Type of waveTransverseLongitudinal
Can they travel through a vacuum?YesNo
How are they detected?Eyes and camerasEars and microphones
Can they be refracted?YesYes
Can they be reflected?YesYes

The speed of sound is roughly 343 m/s, whereas the approximate speed of light is 300,000,000 m/s through a vacuum.

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