Dictionary > Undulatory


moving in the manner of undulations, or waves; resembling the motion of waves, which successively rise or swell rise or swell and fall; pertaining to a propagated alternating motion, similar to that of waves.
(Science: optics) Undulatory theory, or wave theory (of light), that theory which regards its various phenomena as due to undulations in an ethereal medium, propagated from the radiant with immense, but measurable, velocities, and producing different impressions on the retina according to their amplitude and frequency, the sensation of brightness depending on the former, that of colour on the latter. The undulations are supposed to take place, not in the direction of propagation, as in the air waves constituting sound, but transversely, and the various phenomena of refraction, polarization, interference, etc, are attributable to the different affections of these undulations in different circumstances of propagation. It is computed that the frequency of the undulations corresponding to the several colours of the spectrum ranges from 458 millions of millions per second for the extreme red ray, to 727 millions of millions for the extreme violet, and their lengths for the same colours, from the thirty-eight thousandth to the sixty thousandth part of an inch. The theory of ethereal undulations is applicable not only to the phenomena of light, but also to those of heat.
Origin: Cf. F. Ondulatoire.

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