We live in a world defined by waves. There are waves on every imaginable scale, from the infinitely small to the infinitely great. They can be mechanical, owing to the vibration of matter, or electromagnetic, produced by the oscillation of electrically charged particles.
The use of waves is part of everyday living. Our eyes, which enable us to see the world, television, radio, our cellphones and even the microwave ovens in our kitchens, they all use electromagnetic waves. The music we produce is nothing other than a series of soundwaves with an agreeable melodic structure.
Waves in astronomy
Astronomers couldn’t do their work without waves. In effect, the Universe reveals itself to us through the intermediary of light waves. Planets, stars and galaxies unveil their beauties and their secrets by transmitting light of different wavelengths to us. Today we can even use gravitational waves to probe new facets of the Universe. We’ve also discovered the presence of seismic waves in the early Universe that influenced the way in which matter stuck together shortly after the Big Bang.
Waves on our planet
If we look closer to home, waves that seem to us to have no great significance, like sound or ocean waves, can have unexpected consequences. Small living organisms in the water like plankton are affected by soundwaves that propagate there, the waves of whale song, among others. Ocean waves, which allow surfers to dazzle us with their exploits, are a form of wave that unfolds on the water’s surface. Earthquakes, meanwhile, generate seismic waves, which cause so much damage.
Possibly more surprising: on a very small scale, the particles that make up matter can be partially described in terms of waves – a strange world revealed in the course of the 20th century by quantum physics.
Kyma, the journey of the wave
The Planétarium Rio tinto Alcan is presenting a new show on the theme of waves called Kyma. The show is a journey through the world of waves, from the infinitely small to the infinitely great, while celebrating the unique place of the living.