plane wave

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plane wave

[′plān ‚wāv]
Wave in which the wavefront is a plane surface; a wave whose equiphase surfaces form a family of parallel planes.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Plane Wave


a wave in which at every moment the displacements and velocities of the particles in a medium (for mechanical waves) or the strengths of the electric and magnetic fields (for electromagnetic waves) are the same at all points lying in any plane perpendicular to the direction of the wave’s propagation.

Strictly speaking, real plane waves do not exist, since a plane wave that propagates along the x-axis must span the entire region of space with y- and z-coordinates from — ∞ to + ∞. In many cases, however, a bounded (with respect to the y- and z-axes) portion of a wave can be found wherein the wave is nearly the same as a plane wave. This is primarily possible in free space at such great distances from the source that the source can be regarded as a point. Sometimes a wave that is propagating in a bounded region may coincide approximately with such a portion of a plane wave. An example is an elastic wave propagating in a rod.


Gorelik, G. S. Kolebaniia i volny, 2nd ed., ch. 5, subsec. 2, ch. 7, subsec. 3. Moscow, 1959.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

plane wave

A shock wave whose front is normal to the direction of propagation. See normal shock wave.
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
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