Tell me everything there is to know about waves.
September 7, 2010 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in learning everything there is to know about waves. Sound waves, ocean waves, light waves, electromagnetic waves, waves in math, in economics, brain waves, etc, etc....

I'm interested in a general book about waves, in the same mold as recent non-fiction books about Zero or Pi, etc. If there isn't one, then I'm interested in any books, articles, documentaries, anything at all about what waves are, the history of the science behind them, how they work, areas of science that deal with them in unexpected ways and how they apply to anything from earthquakes, to music, to economics to neurology to anything at all you can think of, even if it's fairly tangential. I'm interested in anything from popular science books to university text books. I especially want detailed explanations of the math behind any of these phenomena, from simple springs to quantum mechanics.

I know this is really broad, and I'm not looking for random facts to be posted here. I'm more kind of interested in useful and/or entertaining resources for learning about these things.
posted by empath to Science & Nature (15 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Some of Richard Feynman's lectures on physics are available in audio form along with the book here. The lecture "Quantum Behavior" goes into the behavior of light as a wave/particle.
posted by Green With You at 5:16 PM on September 7, 2010

You might want to look into Fourier analysis.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:22 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Surf Science is a good introduction to how ocean waves are formed and break.
posted by nicwolff at 5:30 PM on September 7, 2010

I could have sworn I recently came across just this exact book.
But I can't for the life of me seem to find any references to it.
posted by HFSH at 5:40 PM on September 7, 2010

Ah, here it is!

The Wave Watcher's Companion
posted by HFSH at 5:44 PM on September 7, 2010

Particle Wave Duality.
posted by Splunge at 6:01 PM on September 7, 2010

I marked his book as best answer, but I'm still interested in more stuff :0
posted by empath at 6:09 PM on September 7, 2010

Crawford's Waves and French's Vibrations and Waves are both good surveys that don't rely on any advanced math (beyond basic calculus; they're aimed at science and engineering early undergrads). Beyond that, the math does get pretty involved. I know someone who teaches this material to first-year physics PhD students out of Dennery and Krzywicki's Mathematics for Physicists.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:36 PM on September 7, 2010

Lot's of good stuff in Solid State Physics, which has direct applications of electronics.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:32 PM on September 7, 2010

Study synthesis (the stuff that people are doing when they program sounds on music synthesizers). There are various kinds: subtractive synthesis is the kind used by old analog synths such as Moogs (and probably the best place to start), but there's also additive synthesis, FM synthesis (frequency modulation), granular synthesis, wavetable synthesis—and plenty of more exotic stuff, including hybrids of the above. Though the techniques vary widely, they're all fundamentally about waves interacting with each other in various ways to create a final output wave (the sound that you hear).

It'll also teach you about things such as harmonics, modulation, resonance, beating, and interference—all of which transcend musical synthesis and apply to wave theory in general.

Plus, you get to play with tweaky blurping sounds.
posted by ixohoxi at 7:54 PM on September 7, 2010

Frequency Modulation Synthesis: The hip new sound of the '80s!
posted by Sys Rq at 7:56 PM on September 7, 2010

If you can tolerate reading a textbook outside of a classroom setting, French's Vibrations and Waves is the classic introductory text on this topic.
posted by deanc at 8:27 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

It couldn't hurt to learn some basics of trig and calculus to round out some of the other things you are learning.
posted by gjc at 4:55 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Waves, Berkeley physics series volume 3 is worth a look. It's about 50 years old, but there are lots of good 'try this at home' suggestions mixed in with the mathematical treatment of waves.
posted by Killick at 7:53 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

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