Anything that swings or bounces or vibrates in a regular motion is said to oscillate. For example a pendulum, a child on a swing, or a spring bouncing up and down.
- simple harmonic motion
- quantitative treatment using a = –ω²x and its solution x = A cos ωt
The link between an oscillating system undergoing simple harmonic motion and a sinusoidal wave is quite an easy one for students to understand, but the mathematics can be quite complicated for them.
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Links and Resources
The prior knowledge detailed in this resource is useful. Students will struggle unless they are comfortable with the relationship between sine and cosine.
Students need to have a good understanding of the the features of simple harmonic motion before dealing with the mathematical relationships. This resource provides many example demonstrations. The one that the students find easiest to understand is the trolley between two springs as the magnitude of restoring force can be linked to the length of the spring. It is harder to see in a swinging pendulum.
This is a hard topic mathematically, and this resource has a number of ideas to help students get to grips with the formula and relationship between x, v and a.
The oscillating mass and spring is a simpler system to understand than the pendulum. Students can link Hooke's law to allow them to calculate the magnitude of the restoring force in the system.
This resource has a number of questions for students to do as well as practical ideas.
This resource contains a good selection of investigations for students to do to allow them to measure oscillating pendulum systems. These experiments are good for getting students to think about timing in experiments. There are a range of measurement techniques from stopwatch to data loggers.