Sunday, May 4, 2014

What is a Wave Anyway?

From Don Winslow’s novel, The Dawn Patrol, “We know one when we see one, but what is it? The physicists call it an ‘energy-transport phenomenon.’ The dictionary says it’s, ‘a disturbance that travels through a medium from one location to another location.’

A disturbance. It’s certainly that.

Something gets disturbed. That is, something strikes something else and sets off a vibration. Clap your hands right now and you’ll hear a sound. What you’re actually hearing is a sound wave. Something struck something else and it set off a vibration that strikes your eardrum.

The vibration is energy. It’s transported through the phenomenon of a wave from one location to the other.

The water itself doesn’t actually move. What happens is one particle of water bumps into the next, which bumps into the next, and so on and so forth until it hits something. It’s like that idiot wave at a sports event – the people don’t move around the stadium, but the wave does. The energy flows from one person to another.

So when you are riding a wave, you’re not riding water. The water is the medium, but what you’re really riding is energy.

Very cool.

Hitching an energy ride.”

As a swimmer or coach you have seen this in action. We coach a small private school with a student body of 320. Our swim team is pretty small compared with the rest of our league. Every once in a while we have a chance to compete team wide due to numbers or swimming ability. Last Friday we had one such opportunity. As the meet unfolded, instead of the usual “we have no chance to win” we actually found ourselves in a battle with a chance to win. Everyone one of our swimmers “came to life”. They swam on an energy wave created by each other and the opportunity to ride their individual and collective efforts to a “team” win.

It was indeed a wonderful teaching moment. Each one of the swimmers realized that they made a difference in the outcome. The water was the medium but they were indeed riding energy. So cool to be a part of that sort of experience – one of the reasons we coach.

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