Phenomena

Kelvin Wakes

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Whether you’re watching ducks cruise by on a pond or a boat making its way across the ocean, you’ve probably noticed a distinctive V-shaped wake. This shape is known as a Kelvin wake, and it forms because waves in water don’t all move at the same speed. Instead, the speed a wave travels at depends on its wavelength; smaller wavelengths travel slower than larger ones, a phenomenon known as dispersion. The characteristic shape of a Kelvin wake is the result of many waves of different wavelength (and therefore speed) added together. (Video and image credit: Minute Physics)

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