A Moment of Science

Driving Through A Tunnel

Have you even wondered why you can hear FM radio signals in a tunnel longer than AM? "Driving Through A Tunnel" on this Moment of Science.

Have you even wondered why you can hear FM radio signals in a tunnel longer than AM?

It’s because FM stations transmit at higher frequencies. They generally go from eighty-eight to one-hundred-and-eight megahertz. That’s over a hundred million cycles per second.

As a result, a single radio wave from an FM station is only a few meters long, about the size of a car. An AM station is putting out radio waves that are hundreds of times as long!

Long wavelengths tend to be absorbed or blocked as they try to enter the smaller tunnel. The higher-energy and shorter-wavelength waves from an FM station aren’t absorbed or blocked as much. Instead, they tend to bounce around and get reflected off of surfaces, much like the inside of a tunnel.

Of course, they only bounce so far. If the tunnel is long enough, even FM stations fade out until you come out the other end.

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