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In physics, a **wave vector** (also spelled **wavevector**) is a vector which helps describe a wave. Like any vector, it has a magnitude and direction, both of which are important. Its magnitude is either the wavenumber or angular wavenumber of the wave (inversely proportional to the wavelength), and its direction is ordinarily the direction of wave propagation (but not always, see below).

**Physics** is the natural science that studies matter, its motion and behavior through space and time, and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.

In physics, mathematics, and related fields, a **wave** is a disturbance of a field in which a physical attribute oscillates repeatedly at each point or propagates from each point to neighboring points, or seems to move through space.

In mathematics, physics, and engineering, a **Euclidean vector** is a geometric object that has magnitude and direction. Vectors can be added to other vectors according to vector algebra. A Euclidean vector is frequently represented by a line segment with a definite direction, or graphically as an arrow, connecting an *initial point**A* with a *terminal point**B*, and denoted by

- Definitions
- Physics definition
- Crystallography definition
- Direction of the wave vector
- In solid-state physics
- In special relativity
- Lorentz transformation
- See also
- References
- Further reading

In the context of special relativity the wave vector can also be defined as a four-vector.

In physics, **special relativity** is the generally accepted and experimentally confirmed physical theory regarding the relationship between space and time. In Albert Einstein's original pedagogical treatment, it is based on two postulates:

- the laws of physics are invariant in all inertial frames of reference ; and
- the speed of light in a vacuum is the same for all observers, regardless of the motion of the light source or observer.

In special relativity, a **four-vector** is an object with four components, which transform in a specific way under Lorentz transformation. Specifically, a four-vector is an element of a four-dimensional vector space considered as a representation space of the standard representation of the Lorentz group, the (½,½) representation. It differs from a Euclidean vector in how its magnitude is determined. The transformations that preserve this magnitude are the Lorentz transformations, which include spatial rotations and boosts.

There are two common definitions of wave vector, which differ by a factor of 2π in their magnitudes. One definition is preferred in physics and related fields, while the other definition is preferred in crystallography and related fields.^{ [1] } For this article, they will be called the "physics definition" and the "crystallography definition", respectively.

**Crystallography** is the experimental science of determining the arrangement of atoms in crystalline solids. The word "crystallography" is derived from the Greek words *crystallon* "cold drop, frozen drop", with its meaning extending to all solids with some degree of transparency, and *graphein* "to write". In July 2012, the United Nations recognised the importance of the science of crystallography by proclaiming that 2014 would be the International Year of Crystallography. X-ray crystallography is used to determine the structure of large biomolecules such as proteins. Before the development of X-ray diffraction crystallography, the study of crystals was based on physical measurements of their geometry. This involved measuring the angles of crystal faces relative to each other and to theoretical reference axes, and establishing the symmetry of the crystal in question. This physical measurement is carried out using a goniometer. The position in 3D space of each crystal face is plotted on a stereographic net such as a Wulff net or Lambert net. The pole to each face is plotted on the net. Each point is labelled with its Miller index. The final plot allows the symmetry of the crystal to be established.

In both definitions below, the magnitude of the wave vector is represented by ; the direction of the wave vector is discussed in the following section.

A perfect one-dimensional traveling wave follows the equation:

where:

*x*is position,*t*is time,- (a function of
*x*and*t*) is the disturbance describing the wave (for example, for an ocean wave, would be the excess height of the water, or for a sound wave, would be the excess air pressure). *A*is the amplitude of the wave (the peak magnitude of the oscillation),- is a "phase offset" describing how two waves can be out of sync with each other,
- is the temporal angular frequency of the wave, describing how many oscillations it completes per unit of time, and related to the period by the equation ,
- is the spatial angular frequency (wavenumber) of the wave, describing how many oscillations it completes per unit of space, and related to the wavelength by the equation .

The **amplitude** of a periodic variable is a measure of its change over a single period. There are various definitions of amplitude, which are all functions of the magnitude of the difference between the variable's extreme values. In older texts the phase is sometimes called the amplitude.

In physics, **angular frequency***ω* is a scalar measure of rotation rate. It refers to the angular displacement per unit time or the rate of change of the phase of a sinusoidal waveform, or as the rate of change of the argument of the sine function.

**Frequency** is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time. It is also referred to as **temporal frequency**, which emphasizes the contrast to spatial frequency and angular frequency. The

is the magnitude of the wave vector. In this one-dimensional example, the direction of the wave vector is trivial: this wave travels in the +x direction with speed (more specifically, phase velocity) . In a multidimensional system, the scalar would be replaced by the vector dot product , representing the wave vector and the position vector, respectively.

The **phase velocity** of a wave is the rate at which the phase of the wave propagates in space. This is the velocity at which the phase of any one frequency component of the wave travels. For such a component, any given phase of the wave will appear to travel at the phase velocity. The phase velocity is given in terms of the wavelength λ (lambda) and time period T as

In mathematical systems theory, a **multidimensional system** or **m-D system** is a system in which not only one independent variable exists, but there are several independent variables.

In crystallography, the same waves are described using slightly different equations.^{ [2] } In one and three dimensions respectively:

The differences between the above two definitions are:

- The angular frequency is used in the physics definition, while the frequency is used in the crystallography definition. They are related by . This substitution is not important for this article, but reflects common practice in crystallography.
- The wavenumber and wave vector
**k**are defined differently: in the physics definition above, , while in the crystallography definition below, .

The direction of **k** is discussed in the next section.

The direction in which the wave vector points must be distinguished from the "direction of wave propagation". The "direction of wave propagation" is the direction of a wave's energy flow, and the direction that a small wave packet will move, i.e. the direction of the group velocity. For light waves, this is also the direction of the Poynting vector. On the other hand, the wave vector points in the direction of phase velocity. In other words, the wave vector points in the normal direction to the surfaces of constant phase, also called wavefronts.

In a lossless isotropic medium such as air, any gas, any liquid, or some solids (such as glass), the direction of the wavevector is exactly the same as the direction of wave propagation. If the medium is lossy, the wave vector in general points in directions other than that of wave propagation. The condition for the wave vector to point in the same direction in which the wave propagates is that the wave has to be homogeneous, which isn't necessarily satisfied when the medium is lossy. In a homogeneous wave, the surfaces of constant phase are also surfaces of constant amplitude. In case of heterogeneous waves, these two species of surfaces differ in orientation. The wave vector is always perpendicular to surfaces of constant phase.

For example, when a wave travels through an anisotropic medium, such as light waves through an asymmetric crystal or sound waves through a sedimentary rock, the wave vector may not point exactly in the direction of wave propagation.^{ [3] }^{ [4] }

In solid-state physics, the "wavevector" (also called **k-vector**) of an electron or hole in a crystal is the wavevector of its quantum-mechanical wavefunction. These electron waves are not ordinary sinusoidal waves, but they do have a kind of * envelope function * which is sinusoidal, and the wavevector is defined via that envelope wave, usually using the "physics definition". See Bloch wave for further details.^{ [5] }

A moving wave surface in special relativity may be regarded as a hypersurface (a 3D subspace) in spacetime, formed by all the events passed by the wave surface. A wavetrain (denoted by some variable X) can be regarded as a one-parameter family of such hypersurfaces in spacetime. This variable X is a scalar function of position in spacetime. The derivative of this scalar is a vector that characterizes the wave, the four-wavevector.^{ [6] }

The four-wavevector is a wave four-vector that is defined, in Minkowski coordinates, as:

where the angular frequency is the temporal component, and the wavenumber vector is the spatial component.

Alternately, the wavenumber can be written as the angular frequency divided by the phase-velocity , or in terms of inverse period and inverse wavelength .

When written out explicitly its contravariant and covariant forms are:

In general, the Lorentz scalar magnitude of the wave four-vector is:

The four-wavevector is null for massless (photonic) particles, where the rest mass

An example of a null four-wavevector would be a beam of coherent, monochromatic light, which has phase-velocity

- {for light-like/null}

which would have the following relation between the frequency and the magnitude of the spatial part of the four-wavevector:

- {for light-like/null}

The four-wavevector is related to the four-momentum as follows:

The four-wavevector is related to the four-frequency as follows:

The four-wavevector is related to the four-velocity as follows:

Taking the Lorentz transformation of the four-wavevector is one way to derive the relativistic Doppler effect. The Lorentz matrix is defined as

In the situation where light is being emitted by a fast moving source and one would like to know the frequency of light detected in an earth (lab) frame, we would apply the Lorentz transformation as follows. Note that the source is in a frame *S*^{s} and earth is in the observing frame, *S*^{obs}. Applying the Lorentz transformation to the wave vector

and choosing just to look at the component results in

where is the direction cosine of wrt

So

As an example, to apply this to a situation where the source is moving directly away from the observer (), this becomes:

To apply this to a situation where the source is moving straight towards the observer (), this becomes:

To apply this to a situation where the source is moving transversely with respect to the observer (), this becomes:

The **group velocity** of a wave is the velocity with which the overall envelope shape of the wave's amplitudes—known as the *modulation* or *envelope* of the wave—propagates through space.

**Synchrotron radiation** is the electromagnetic radiation emitted when charged particles are accelerated radially, i.e., when they are subject to an acceleration perpendicular to their velocity. It is produced, for example, in synchrotrons using bending magnets, undulators and/or wigglers. If the particle is non-relativistic, then the emission is called cyclotron emission. If, on the other hand, the particles are relativistic, sometimes referred to as ultrarelativistic, the emission is called synchrotron emission. Synchrotron radiation may be achieved artificially in synchrotrons or storage rings, or naturally by fast electrons moving through magnetic fields. The radiation produced in this way has a characteristic polarization and the frequencies generated can range over the entire electromagnetic spectrum which is also called continuum radiation.

In quantum mechanics and quantum field theory, the **propagator** is a function that specifies the probability amplitude for a particle to travel from one place to another in a given time, or to travel with a certain energy and momentum. In Feynman diagrams, which serve to calculate the rate of collisions in quantum field theory, virtual particles contribute their propagator to the rate of the scattering event described by the respective diagram. These may also be viewed as the inverse of the wave operator appropriate to the particle, and are, therefore, often called *(causal) Green's functions*.

In differential geometry, the **Cotton tensor** on a (pseudo)-Riemannian manifold of dimension *n* is a third-order tensor concomitant of the metric, like the Weyl tensor. The vanishing of the Cotton tensor for *n* = 3 is necessary and sufficient condition for the manifold to be conformally flat, as with the Weyl tensor for *n* ≥ 4. For *n* < 3 the Cotton tensor is identically zero. The concept is named after Émile Cotton.

In differential geometry, the **four-gradient** is the four-vector analogue of the gradient from vector calculus.

The **four-frequency** of a massless particle, such as a photon, is a four-vector defined by

In physics, **Larmor precession** is the precession of the magnetic moment of an object about an external magnetic field. Objects with a magnetic moment also have angular momentum and effective internal electric current proportional to their angular momentum; these include electrons, protons, other fermions, many atomic and nuclear systems, as well as classical macroscopic systems. The external magnetic field exerts a torque on the magnetic moment,

The **electromagnetic wave equation** is a second-order partial differential equation that describes the propagation of electromagnetic waves through a medium or in a vacuum. It is a three-dimensional form of the wave equation. The homogeneous form of the equation, written in terms of either the electric field **E** or the magnetic field **B**, takes the form:

In the theory of general relativity, a **stress–energy–momentum pseudotensor**, such as the **Landau–Lifshitz pseudotensor**, is an extension of the non-gravitational stress–energy tensor that incorporates the energy–momentum of gravity. It allows the energy–momentum of a system of gravitating matter to be defined. In particular it allows the total of matter plus the gravitating energy–momentum to form a conserved current within the framework of general relativity, so that the *total* energy–momentum crossing the hypersurface of *any* compact space–time hypervolume vanishes.

The **Newman–Penrose** (**NP**) **formalism** is a set of notation developed by Ezra T. Newman and Roger Penrose for general relativity (GR). Their notation is an effort to treat general relativity in terms of spinor notation, which introduces complex forms of the usual variables used in GR. The NP formalism is itself a special case of the tetrad formalism, where the tensors of the theory are projected onto a complete vector basis at each point in spacetime. Usually this vector basis is chosen to reflect some symmetry of the spacetime, leading to simplified expressions for physical observables. In the case of the NP formalism, the vector basis chosen is a null tetrad: a set of four null vectors—two real, and a complex-conjugate pair. The two real members asymptotically point radially inward and radially outward, and the formalism is well adapted to treatment of the propagation of radiation in curved spacetime. The Weyl scalars, derived from the Weyl tensor, are often used. In particular, it can be shown that one of these scalars— in the appropriate frame—encodes the outgoing gravitational radiation of an asymptotically flat system.

The **Frank–Tamm formula** yields the amount of Cherenkov radiation emitted on a given frequency as a charged particle moves through a medium at superluminal velocity. It is named for Russian physicists Ilya Frank and Igor Tamm who developed the theory of the Cherenkov effect in 1937, for which they were awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1958.

In mathematics, the **Schur orthogonality relations**, which is proven by Issai Schur through Schur's lemma, express a central fact about representations of finite groups. They admit a generalization to the case of compact groups in general, and in particular compact Lie groups, such as the rotation group SO(3).

In nonideal fluid dynamics, the **Hagen–Poiseuille equation**, also known as the **Hagen–Poiseuille law**, **Poiseuille law** or **Poiseuille equation**, is a physical law that gives the pressure drop in an incompressible and Newtonian fluid in laminar flow flowing through a long cylindrical pipe of constant cross section. It can be successfully applied to air flow in lung alveoli, or the flow through a drinking straw or through a hypodermic needle. It was experimentally derived independently by Jean Léonard Marie Poiseuille in 1838 and Gotthilf Heinrich Ludwig Hagen, and published by Poiseuille in 1840–41 and 1846. The theoretical justification of the Poiseuille law was given by George Stokes in 1845.

In probability theory and statistics, the **normal-inverse-gamma distribution** is a four-parameter family of multivariate continuous probability distributions. It is the conjugate prior of a normal distribution with unknown mean and variance.

When an electromagnetic wave travels through a medium in which it gets attenuated, it undergoes exponential decay as described by the Beer–Lambert law. However, there are many possible ways to characterize the wave and how quickly it is attenuated. This article describes the mathematical relationships among:

**Lindhard theory**, named after Danish professor Jens Lindhard, is a method of calculating the effects of electric field screening by electrons in a solid. It is based on quantum mechanics and the random phase approximation.

In physics and engineering, the **envelope** of an oscillating signal is a smooth curve outlining its extremes. The envelope thus generalizes the concept of a constant amplitude. The figure illustrates a modulated sine wave varying between an upper and a lower envelope. The envelope function may be a function of time, space, angle, or indeed of any variable.

A **geometric stable distribution** or **geo-stable distribution** is a type of leptokurtic probability distribution. Geometric stable distributions were introduced in Klebanov, L. B., Maniya, G. M., and Melamed, I. A. (1985). A problem of Zolotarev and analogs of infinitely divisible and stable distributions in a scheme for summing a random number of random variables. These distributions are analogues for stable distributions for the case when the number of summands is random, independent of the distribution of summand, and having geometric distribution. The geometric stable distribution may be symmetric or asymmetric. A symmetric geometric stable distribution is also referred to as a **Linnik distribution**. The Laplace distribution and asymmetric Laplace distribution are special cases of the geometric stable distribution. The Laplace distribution is also a special case of a Linnik distribution. The Mittag-Leffler distribution is also a special case of a geometric stable distribution.

In physics, **sinusoidal****plane wave** is a special case of plane wave: a field whose value varies as a sinusoidal function of time and of the distance from some fixed plane.

- ↑ Physics definition example:Harris, Benenson, Stöcker (2002).
*Handbook of Physics*. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-387-95269-7.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link). Crystallography definition example: Vaĭnshteĭn (1994).*Modern Crystallography*. p. 259. ISBN 978-3-540-56558-1. - ↑ Vaĭnshteĭn, Boris Konstantinovich (1994).
*Modern Crystallography*. p. 259. ISBN 978-3-540-56558-1. - ↑ Fowles, Grant (1968).
*Introduction to modern optics*. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. p. 177. - ↑ "This effect has been explained by Musgrave (1959) who has shown that the energy of an elastic wave in an anisotropic medium will not, in general, travel along the same path as the normal to the plane wavefront...",
*Sound waves in solids*by Pollard, 1977. link - ↑ Donald H. Menzel (1960). "§10.5 Bloch waves".
*Fundamental Formulas of Physics, Volume 2*(Reprint of Prentice-Hall 1955 2nd ed.). Courier-Dover. p. 624. ISBN 978-0486605968. - ↑ Wolfgang Rindler (1991). "§24 Wave motion".
*Introduction to Special Relativity*(2nd ed.). Oxford Science Publications. pp. 60–65. ISBN 978-0-19-853952-0.

- Brau, Charles A. (2004).
*Modern Problems in Classical Electrodynamics*. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514665-3.

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