How is the charge moving in the waves related to what is actually played on the …

How is the charge moving in the waves related to what is actually played on the radio?

First, there isn’t any charge moving in the waves themselves. The waves contain only electric and magnetic fields. These fields will push on any electric charges or magnetic poles they encounter, but they are not themselves electrically charges or magnetically poled. The amount of fields in a radio used for audio transmission depend on the station’s transmitting power and on the encoding format for the music. In AM (Amplitude Modulation) encoding, the music is encoded as the strength of the radio waves. Each time the radio wave’s strength goes up and down once, the speaker cone in your receiver goes forward and backward once. In FM (Frequency Modulation) encoding, the radio wave’s strength remains steady but its precise frequency changes slightly. Each time the radio wave’s frequency goes up and down once, the speaker cone in your receiver goes forward and backward once.

If electric and magnetic field are forever recreating one another – in radio wav…

If electric and magnetic field are forever recreating one another – in radio waves – how do you change the sounds they produce?

Within each portion of the wave, the local electric and magnetic fields endlessly recreate one another. But this portion of the wave heads outward from the transmitting antenna at the speed of light and is soon far away from the earth. As the transmitter changes the amount of charge on the antenna or its frequency of motion up and down, it creates new portions of the wave that may differ from the portions sent out a minute ago, a second ago, or even a few millionths of a second ago. Thus the transmitter’s changes very quickly pass outward to all of the receivers nearby. The farther you are from the transmitter, the longer it takes for the various patterns in the wave to reach you and your receiver. All of the music transmitted by radio stations in the 50’s is still traveling outward because the patterns emitted back then continue to travel. They are now 40 or 50 light years away from the earth and are so widely dispersed across space that it would take a phenomenally sensitive receiver to detect them. But they are out there nonetheless. Many of the searches for extraterrestrial intelligence have focused on trying to detect this sort of radio transmission across the depths of space. If other peoples have invented radio, they are quite likely to have chosen AM or FM modulation as their encoding schemes, too.

Occasionally my receiver will pick up two stations at the same time, fading in a…

Occasionally my receiver will pick up two stations at the same time, fading in and out and fighting to be heard. How is this possible?

In AM radio, the sound is encoded as the strength of the radio wave. If two transmitters are using the same frequency (or your receiver cannot distinguish between them due to its limited resolution), then it will responds to both of them at once. The sound that you hear will be the sum of them both, as though they were two musical instruments in the same room. In FM radio, the sound is encoded as the exact frequency of the radio wave. In this case, your receiver is likely to follow the strongest of the two stations and flip in between occasionally when their strengths change (due to weather or reflections from moving objects). Thus it is common for AM radio receivers to superpose two stations but not so common for FM radio receivers to do the same trick.