We’ve all probably heard the term “radio wave” before, but what does it mean? Radio waves are how information is transferred electronically across long distances. Whether that information is a word you say into your cell phone, an episode of “Modern Family,” or an email you send across the country, it is sent on a radio wave. It seems like radio waves are useful, but just what is a radio wave? A radio wave is actually a type of light, but it is outside of the visible spectrum, so we can’t see it. We can only perceive red, green and blue light. All the other colors are combinations of these three colors. Types of light are differentiated by their wavelength. Put simply, a wavelength is how long one piece of the light is. Humans don’t think fast enough to perceive the difference in length other than the color, so don’t think that a flash of red light will last longer than a flash or blue, or something like that. Radio waves are so long that humans can’t see them. They range from one millimeter to 61 miles! We use so many different lengths of radio wave because each device needs its own wavelength of radio wave. Your cell phone perceives one length of radio wave, and mine reads another. If devices used the same length, then I would receive your call to someone else, while they received my text, and your TV changed channels to my remote, and a whole mess of other things! With all the devices out there, we need a huge variety of waves.
So now we know what they are, and how they are used, but how do radio waves actually carry the information? The light itself doesn’t actually carry the information, but modern electronics allow us to slightly deviate the radio wave from how it normally is. Then, the deviations are turned into numerical values and put throughout complex equations to get the information the sender intended.
So now we know that radio waves send information across long distances using small anomalies, and that all radio waves are specific to their device, so that signals don’t get mixed up. Even thought they don’t have any mass, they are still a wonderful part of our society.
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