Happy Birthday Hertz!

Happy birthday to you

You’re a hundred and fifty five

You discovered light moves in waves

And that set the stage for a bunch of physics-y stuff!

Not very catchy, but it works. Happy Birthday to Heinrich Rudolph Hertz, the guy who discovered that electromagnetic fields move in waves! This might seem a bit abstract- and totally not significant. That’s where you couldn’t be more wrong. His discovery led to inventions that you’re using right now; from televisions to computers, and even cell phones.

Electromagnetic waves are waves that have characteristics of both electric fields and magnetic fields. So what exactly is a field? It’s pretty much a fancy term for a state of being. For example, a magnetic field is pretty much “A place influenced by magnetic forces”. Every field has both direction and magnitude. An electrical field pretty much talks about the interaction between a charged particle and another charged particle (ions). A magnetic field is pretty much just…magnets.This might all sound abstract, but fields are everywhere. In fact, there’s a magnetic field surround the earth.

So to sum it up, EM waves are a combination of both fields, except in wave form. So how did he figure this stuff out?

To sum up his experiment, he pretty much set two coils apart from each other, and put charges between them. The resulting fields started radiating in waves. To give a depiction, here’s an image.

File:TransverseEMwave.PNG

(photo from wikepedia Author: User.Hertzian 16th June 2006). 

– Pia Sen

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