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investigate how and why the depth of water affects wave speed

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Physics Coursework - Part 1 - Plan - Josh Schneider -U4E

Physics Coursework: Planning Section


The aim for this experiment is to investigate how and why the depth of water affects wave speed, wavelength, wave height and also the direction the wave travels in.


After thoroughly researching this topic and looking at some preliminary results used in my plan. I can predict that the deeper the water in the ocean or container, the faster the waves will travel. Therefore if I was to halve the amount of water in the plastic container, the wave speed should halve as well and be much slower. I also predict that as the water is refracted from one end of the container, it will return to the other side of the container parallel.


        A wave is a vibration or an oscillation, which is transmitted through a material or even space, a wave is shown by a regular pattern of disturbance. All waves transfer energy from one point to another without any transfer of particles of matter.

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Wave Speed (m/s) = Frequency (Hz) x Wavelength (m)

This equation shows that for a wave that travels at a constant speed, the frequency of waves is inversely proportional to the wavelength.

All waves including light waves, water waves and sound waves can be reflected, refracted and diffracted. Waves are reflected when a barrier is placed in their path. Incident waves are sent out which then hit the barrier, the waves then bounce off (reflect) the barrier at an angle and therefore give off reflected waves. Diffraction is simply when waves move through a gap, as the waves diffract they spread out from the edges. Refraction is a movement, which is relevant to all waves. Refraction occurs when waves cross a boundary between one medium and another (of different density). Therefore there is a change of speed in the waves, which causes the waves to change direction. At the moment however, the most important type of wave to us is refraction, as this is the wave that is being used in our experiment.

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g the plastic container and lowering it again to create a wave. During the experiment, I started to wonder if the height you lift the container up would affect how fast the waves were to travel. Therefore I planned a smaller scale preliminary experiment to find out whether the height did affect it. I started of a height of 5cm and increased by 1cm each time, finishing at 10cm. I used a constant depth of 3cm. Below are the results that I found…

Height Of Container (cm)

1st Test

2nd Test



4.35 s

4.33 s



4.31 s

4.32 s

4.315 s



4.36 s

4.35 s




4.32 s




4.31 s




4.36 s

As you can see from these results, there is hardly any change in time when altering the height of the container and therefore the height does not affect the wavespeed. This is why I will not be altering the height in the main experiment, as it will have no effect.

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