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In vibration theory, the wave number is the ratio of the wavelength to 2π. If this ratio is a real number, the wave will be a nondispersing wave (i.e., it will have a constant phase velocity for all its components and will retain its shape). If the wave number is complex, then the wave will be a dispersing wave (i.e., its components will have different phase velocities and it will not retain its shape and will disperse over time). All waves encountered in macroscopic reality are dispersing to some extent.