Frequency vs. Wavelength

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Frequency and Wavelength is that the Frequency is a number of occurrences per unit time and Wavelength is a spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the wave’s shape repeats, and thus the inverse of the spatial frequency

  • Frequency

    Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency, which emphasizes the contrast to spatial frequency and angular frequency. The period is the duration of time of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency. For example: if a newborn baby’s heart beats at a frequency of 120 times a minute, its period—the time interval between beats—is half a second (60 seconds divided by 120 beats). Frequency is an important parameter used in science and engineering to specify the rate of oscillatory and vibratory phenomena, such as mechanical vibrations, audio signals (sound), radio waves, and light.

  • Wavelength

    In physics, the wavelength is the spatial period of a periodic wave—the distance over which the wave’s shape repeats. It is the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase on the wave, such as two adjacent crests, troughs, or zero crossings, and is a characteristic of both traveling waves and standing waves, as well as other spatial wave patterns. The inverse of the wavelength is called the spatial frequency. Wavelength is commonly designated by the Greek letter lambda (λ).

    The term wavelength is also sometimes applied to modulated waves, and to the sinusoidal envelopes of modulated waves or waves formed by interference of several sinusoids.Assuming a sinusoidal wave moving at a fixed wave speed, wavelength is inversely proportional to frequency of the wave: waves with higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths, and lower frequencies have longer wavelengths.Wavelength depends on the medium (for example, vacuum, air, or water) that a wave travels through. Examples of waves are sound waves, light, water waves and periodic electrical signals in a conductor. A sound wave is a variation in air pressure, while in light and other electromagnetic radiation the strength of the electric and the magnetic field vary. Water waves are variations in the height of a body of water. In a crystal lattice vibration, atomic positions vary.

    The range of wavelengths or frequencies for wave phenomena is called a spectrum. The name originated with the visible light spectrum but now can be applied to the entire electromagnetic spectrum as well as to a sound spectrum or vibration spectrum.

  • Frequency (noun)

    The rate of occurrence of anything; the relationship between incidence and time period.

  • Frequency (noun)

    The property of occurring often rather than infrequently.

  • Frequency (noun)

    The quotient of the number of times n a periodic phenomenon occurs over the time t in which it occurs: f = n / t.

  • Frequency (noun)

    number of times an event occurred in an experiment (absolute frequency)

  • Wavelength (noun)

    The length of a single cycle of a wave, as measured by the distance between one peak or trough of a wave and the next; it is often designated in physics as λ, and corresponds to the velocity of the wave divided by its frequency.

  • Frequency (noun)

    the rate at which something occurs over a particular period of time or in a given sample

    “an increase in the frequency of accidents due to increased overtime”

  • Frequency (noun)

    the fact or state of being frequent or happening often.

  • Frequency (noun)

    the rate per second of a vibration constituting a wave, either in a material (as in sound waves), or in an electromagnetic field (as in radio waves and light)

    “different thicknesses of glass will absorb different frequencies of sound”

  • Frequency (noun)

    the particular waveband at which radio signals are broadcast or transmitted

    “a radio station on a single AM radio frequency”

    “a coding sequence to ensure that everyone changes frequency in the correct manner”

Oxford Dictionary

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