Almost everyone has experienced the Doppler effect, though perhaps without knowing what causes it. For example, if one is standing on a street corner and an ambulance approaches with its siren blaring, the sound of the siren steadily gains in pitch as it comes closer. Then, as it passes, the pitch suddenly lowers perceptibly. This is an example of the Doppler effect: the change in the observed frequency of a wave when the source of the wave is moving with respect to the observer. The Doppler effect, which occurs both in sound and electromagnetic waves—including light waves—has a number of applications. Astronomers use it, for instance, to gauge the movement of stars relative to Earth. Closer to home, principles relating to the Doppler effect find application in radar technology. Doppler radar provides information concerning weather patterns, but some people experience it in a less pleasant way: when a police officer uses it to measure their driving speed before writing a ticket.

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