Skip to main content

From the Editor's Desk

The Seemingly Endless Uses of Waves

We interact with waves on a daily basis. Waves are the energy responsible for transferring information; they help us discover new astronomical findings, can be used in countless ways in the medical field, and help us locate new archeological finds via ground-penetrating radar. The ubiquitous uses of waves include everything from sonar for detecting objects under the surface of water, MRIs for visualizing the body’s organs, Doppler radar for predicting weather, gravitational waves for studying black holes and other cosmic discoveries, ultrasounds for prenatal scanning and cleaning equipment and jewelry, and X-rays for visualizing broken bones.

While here on Earth we use radio waves to use our cell phones, and scientists are discovering how gravitational waves can rock the cosmos, causing collisions of black holes (Conover, 2018). New findings about sound waves may lead us to conclude that waves have mass—something previously assumed impossible (Choi 2019), while ground-penetrating radar was recently used to discover a buried Viking ship in Norway (Valera 2019). Waves are even being explored as a way to generate electrical energy (U.S. Energy Information Administration n.d.).

When teaching the topic of waves, you may want to consider starting with a phenomenon that focuses on how waves transmit energy, interact with materials, or are used for communication purposes. The Wonder of Science website contains a number of phenomena that you may find useful. Simulations, such as those found on PhET, can help students interact with waves in order to visualize how waves transmit energy and information. Finally, you may want to consider having your students research the vast number of careers that involve the study, manipulation, or use of technologies involving waves. The choices are nearly limitless!


Choi, C.Q. 2019, March 11. Sound waves may fall up in gravity instead of down.

Conover, E. 2018, December 4. Scientists’ collection of gravitational waves just got a lot bigger.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. n.d. Hydropower explained: Wave power.

Valera, S. 2019, March 25. Geo-radar detects Viking ship buried underground in Norway.

Patty McGinnis is a teacher at Arcola Intermediate School in Eagleville, Pennsylvania. You can contact her at or on Twitter: @patty_mcginnis.

General Science Middle School

Asset 2