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MCAT Physics Question — Wave Speed

A wave at Waimea Bay, Hawaii, has a speed of 6 m/sec when it starts to break. If 6 waves break each minute, what is the distance from the wave’s crest to its trough?


  1. 0.5m
  2. 1m
  3. 30m
  4. 60m




Wave speed is related to wavelength and frequency by the equation v=fλ. In this problem, 6 waves a minute translates into a frequency of 0.1 Hz.

6 waves/minute x 1minute/60 seconds = 1wave/10 seconds = 0.1 Hz

6m/sec*10sec=60m. Peak to trough is 1/2 wavelength, 30m.


  1. 0.5m, incorrect, This answer does not convert minutes to seconds.
  2. 1m, incorrect, This answer does not convert minutes to seconds and does not divide wavelength by 2.
  3. 30m, correct.
  4. 60m, incorrect, This answer does not divide wavelength by 2.


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