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www.lightandmatter.com
The Light and Matter series of
introductory physics textbooks:
1 Newtonian Physics
2 Conservation Laws
3 Vibrations and Waves
4 Electricity and Magnetism
5 Optics
6 The Modern Revolution in Physics
Benjamin Crowell
www.lightandmatter.com
Fullerton, California
www.lightandmatter.com
copyright 19982008 Benjamin Crowell
rev. November 21, 2010
This book is licensed under the Creative Com
mons AttributionShareAlike license, version 3.0,
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for those photographs and drawings of which I am not
the author, as listed in the photo credits. If you agree
to the license, it grants you certain privileges that you
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ISBN 0970467036
To Diz and Bird.
Brief Contents
1 Vibrations 13
2 Resonance 25
3 Free Waves 47
4 Bounded Waves 75
Contents
1 Vibrations
1.1 Period, Frequency, and Amplitude . 14
1.2 Simple Harmonic Motion . . . . . 17
Why are sinewave vibrations so common?,
17.—Period is approximately independent
of amplitude, if the amplitude is small., 18.
1.3 Proofs . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
2 Resonance
2.1 Energy In Vibrations . . . . . . . 26
2.2 Energy Lost From Vibrations . . . 28
2.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations . . . 30
2.4 Proofs . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Statement 2: maximum amplitude at
resonance, 39.—Statement 3: amplitude
at resonance proportional to Q, 39.—
Statement 4: FWHM related to Q, 40.
Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
3 Free Waves
3.1 Wave Motion . . . . . . . . . . 49
1. Superposition, 49.—2. The medium is
not transported with the wave., 51.—3. A
wave’s velocity depends on the medium.,
52.—Wave patterns, 53.
3.2 Waves on a String. . . . . . . . 54
Intuitive ideas, 54.—Approximate
treatment, 55.—Rigorous derivation using
calculus (optional), 56.
3.3 Sound and Light Waves . . . . . 57
Sound waves, 57.—Light waves, 59
.
3.4 Periodic Waves . . . . . . . . . 60
Period and frequency of a periodic wave,
60.—Graphs of waves as a function of
position, 60.—Wavelength, 61.—Wave ve
locity related to frequency and wavelength,
61.—Sinusoidal waves, 63.
3.5 The Doppler Effect . . . . . . . 64
The Big Bang, 66.—What the Big Bang is
not, 68.
Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
10
Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
4 Bounded Waves
4.1 Reﬂection, Transmission, and
Absorption. . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
Reﬂection and transmission, 76.—
Inverted and uninverted reﬂections, 79.—
Absorption, 79.
4.2 Quantitative Treatment of Reﬂection 83
Why reﬂection occurs, 83.—Intensity of
reﬂection, 84.—Inverted and uninverted re
ﬂections in general, 85.
4.3 Interference Effects . . . . . . . 86
4.4 Waves Bounded on Both Sides . . 89
Musical applications, 91.—Standing
waves, 91.—Standingwave patterns of air
columns, 93.
Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
Appendix 1: Exercises 98
Appendix 2: Photo Credits 100
Appendix 3: Hints and Solutions 101
11
12
The vibrations of this electric bass
string are converted to electrical
vibrations, then to sound vibra
tions, and ﬁnally to vibrations of
our eardrums.
Chapter 1
Vibrations
Dandelion. Cello. Read those two words, and your brain instantly
conjures a stream of associations, the most prominent of which have
to do with vibrations. Our mental category of “dandelionness” is
strongly linked to the color of light waves that vibrate about half a
million billion times a second: yellow. The velvety throb of a cello
has as its most obvious characteristic a relatively low musical pitch
— the note you are spontaneously imagining right now might be
one whose sound vibrations repeat at a rate of a hundred times a
second.
Evolution has designed our two most important senses around
the assumption that not only will our environment be drenched with
informationbearing vibrations, but in addition those vibrations will
often be repetitive, so that we can judge colors and pitches by the
rate of repetition. Granting that we do sometimes encounter non
repeating waves such as the consonant “sh,” which has no recogniz
able pitch, why was Nature’s assumption of repetition nevertheless
so right in general?
Repeating phenomena occur throughout nature, from the orbits
of electrons in atoms to the reappearance of Halley’s Comet every 75
years. Ancient cultures tended to attribute repetitious phenomena
13
a / If we try to draw a non
repeating orbit for Halley’s
Comet, it will inevitably end up
crossing itself.
b / A spring has an equilib
rium length, 1, and can be
stretched, 2, or compressed, 3. A
mass attached to the spring can
be set into motion initially, 4, and
will then vibrate, 413.
like the seasons to the cyclical nature of time itself, but we now
have a less mystical explanation. Suppose that instead of Halley’s
Comet’s true, repeating elliptical orbit that closes seamlessly upon
itself with each revolution, we decide to take a pen and draw a
whimsical alternative path that never repeats. We will not be able to
draw for very long without having the path cross itself. But at such
a crossing point, the comet has returned to a place it visited once
before, and since its potential energy is the same as it was on the
last visit, conservation of energy proves that it must again have the
same kinetic energy and therefore the same speed. Not only that,
but the comet’s direction of motion cannot be randomly chosen,
because angular momentum must be conserved as well. Although
this falls short of being an ironclad proof that the comet’s orbit must
repeat, it no longer seems surprising that it does.
Conservation laws, then, provide us with a good reason why
repetitive motion is so prevalent in the universe. But it goes deeper
than that. Up to this point in your study of physics, I have been
indoctrinating you with a mechanistic vision of the universe as a
giant piece of clockwork. Breaking the clockwork down into smaller
and smaller bits, we end up at the atomic level, where the electrons
circling the nucleus resemble — well, little clocks! From this point
of view, particles of matter are the fundamental building blocks
of everything, and vibrations and waves are just a couple of the
tricks that groups of particles can do. But at the beginning of
the 20th century, the tables were turned. A chain of discoveries
initiated by Albert Einstein led to the realization that the socalled
subatomic “particles” were in fact waves. In this new worldview,
it is vibrations and waves that are fundamental, and the formation
of matter is just one of the tricks that waves can do.
1.1 Period, Frequency, and Amplitude
Figure b shows our most basic example of a vibration. With no
forces on it, the spring assumes its equilibrium length, b/1. It can
be stretched, 2, or compressed, 3. We attach the spring to a wall
on the left and to a mass on the right. If we now hit the mass with
a hammer, 4, it oscillates as shown in the series of snapshots, 413.
If we assume that the mass slides back and forth without friction
and that the motion is onedimensional, then conservation of energy
proves that the motion must be repetitive. When the block comes
back to its initial position again, 7, its potential energy is the same
again, so it must have the same kinetic energy again. The motion
is in the opposite direction, however. Finally, at 10, it returns to its
initial position with the same kinetic energy and the same direction
of motion. The motion has gone through one complete cycle, and
will now repeat forever in the absence of friction.
The usual physics terminology for motion that repeats itself over
14 Chapter 1 Vibrations
c / Example 1.
and over is periodic motion, and the time required for one repetition
is called the period, T. (The symbol P is not used because of the
possible confusion with momentum.) One complete repetition of the
motion is called a cycle.
We are used to referring to shortperiod sound vibrations as
“high” in pitch, and it sounds odd to have to say that high pitches
have low periods. It is therefore more common to discuss the rapid
ity of a vibration in terms of the number of vibrations per second,
a quantity called the frequency, f. Since the period is the number
of seconds per cycle and the frequency is the number of cycles per
second, they are reciprocals of each other,
f = 1/T .
A carnival game example 1
In the carnival game shown in ﬁgure c, the rube is supposed to
push the bowling ball on the track just hard enough so that it goes
over the hump and into the valley, but does not come back out
again. If the only types of energy involved are kinetic and poten
tial, this is impossible. Suppose you expect the ball to come back
to a point such as the one shown with the dashed outline, then
stop and turn around. It would already have passed through this
point once before, going to the left on its way into the valley. It
was moving then, so conservation of energy tells us that it can
not be at rest when it comes back to the same point. The motion
that the customer hopes for is physically impossible. There is
a physically possible periodic motion in which the ball rolls back
and forth, staying conﬁned within the valley, but there is no way
to get the ball into that motion beginning from the place where we
start. There is a way to beat the game, though. If you put enough
spin on the ball, you can create enough kinetic friction so that a
signiﬁcant amount of heat is generated. Conservation of energy
then allows the ball to be at rest when it comes back to a point
like the outlined one, because kinetic energy has been converted
into heat.
Period and frequency of a ﬂy’s wingbeats example 2
A Victorian parlor trick was to listen to the pitch of a ﬂy’s buzz, re
produce the musical note on the piano, and announce how many
times the ﬂy’s wings had ﬂapped in one second. If the ﬂy’s wings
ﬂap, say, 200 times in one second, then the frequency of their
motion is f = 200/1 s = 200 s
−1
. The period is one 200th of a
second, T = 1/f = (1/200) s = 0.005 s.
Section 1.1 Period, Frequency, and Amplitude 15
d / 1. The amplitude of the
vibrations of the mass on a spring
could be deﬁned in two different
ways. It would have units of
distance. 2. The amplitude of a
swinging pendulum would more
naturally be deﬁned as an angle.
Units of inverse second, s
−1
, are awkward in speech, so an abbre
viation has been created. One Hertz, named in honor of a pioneer
of radio technology, is one cycle per second. In abbreviated form,
1 Hz = 1 s
−1
. This is the familiar unit used for the frequencies on
the radio dial.
Frequency of a radio station example 3
KKJZ’s frequency is 88.1 MHz. What does this mean, and what
period does this correspond to?
The metric preﬁx M is mega, i.e., millions. The radio waves
emitted by KKJZ’s transmitting antenna vibrate 88.1 million times
per second. This corresponds to a period of
T = 1/f = 1.14 ×10
−8
s .
This example shows a second reason why we normally speak in
terms of frequency rather than period: it would be painful to have
to refer to such small time intervals routinely. I could abbreviate
by telling people that KKJZ’s period was 11.4 nanoseconds, but
most people are more familiar with the big metric preﬁxes than
with the small ones.
Units of frequency are also commonly used to specify the speeds
of computers. The idea is that all the little circuits on a computer
chip are synchronized by the very fast ticks of an electronic clock, so
that the circuits can all cooperate on a task without getting ahead
or behind. Adding two numbers might require, say, 30 clock cycles.
Microcomputers these days operate at clock frequencies of about a
gigahertz.
We have discussed how to measure how fast something vibrates,
but not how big the vibrations are. The general term for this is
amplitude, A. The deﬁnition of amplitude depends on the system
being discussed, and two people discussing the same system may
not even use the same deﬁnition. In the example of the block on the
end of the spring, d/1, the amplitude will be measured in distance
units such as cm. One could work in terms of the distance traveled
by the block from the extreme left to the extreme right, but it
would be somewhat more common in physics to use the distance
from the center to one extreme. The former is usually referred to as
the peaktopeak amplitude, since the extremes of the motion look
like mountain peaks or upsidedown mountain peaks on a graph of
position versus time.
In other situations we would not even use the same units for am
plitude. The amplitude of a child on a swing, or a pendulum, d/2,
would most conveniently be measured as an angle, not a distance,
since her feet will move a greater distance than her head. The elec
trical vibrations in a radio receiver would be measured in electrical
units such as volts or amperes.
16 Chapter 1 Vibrations
e / Sinusoidal and nonsinusoidal
vibrations.
f / The force exerted by an
ideal spring, which behaves
exactly according to Hooke’s law.
1.2 Simple Harmonic Motion
Why are sinewave vibrations so common?
If we actually construct the massonaspring system discussed
in the previous section and measure its motion accurately, we will
ﬁnd that its x−t graph is nearly a perfect sinewave shape, as shown
in ﬁgure e/1. (We call it a “sine wave” or “sinusoidal” even if it is
a cosine, or a sine or cosine shifted by some arbitrary horizontal
amount.) It may not be surprising that it is a wiggle of this general
sort, but why is it a speciﬁc mathematically perfect shape? Why is
it not a sawtooth shape like 2 or some other shape like 3? The mys
tery deepens as we ﬁnd that a vast number of apparently unrelated
vibrating systems show the same mathematical feature. A tuning
fork, a sapling pulled to one side and released, a car bouncing on
its shock absorbers, all these systems will exhibit sinewave motion
under one condition: the amplitude of the motion must be small.
It is not hard to see intuitively why extremes of amplitude would
act diﬀerently. For example, a car that is bouncing lightly on its
shock absorbers may behave smoothly, but if we try to double the
amplitude of the vibrations the bottom of the car may begin hitting
the ground, e/4. (Although we are assuming for simplicity in this
chapter that energy is never dissipated, this is clearly not a very
realistic assumption in this example. Each time the car hits the
ground it will convert quite a bit of its potential and kinetic en
ergy into heat and sound, so the vibrations would actually die out
quite quickly, rather than repeating for many cycles as shown in the
ﬁgure.)
The key to understanding how an object vibrates is to know how
the force on the object depends on the object’s position. If an object
is vibrating to the right and left, then it must have a leftward force
on it when it is on the right side, and a rightward force when it is on
the left side. In one dimension, we can represent the direction of the
force using a positive or negative sign, and since the force changes
from positive to negative there must be a point in the middle where
the force is zero. This is the equilibrium point, where the object
would stay at rest if it was released at rest. For convenience of
notation throughout this chapter, we will deﬁne the origin of our
coordinate system so that x equals zero at equilibrium.
The simplest example is the mass on a spring, for which force
on the mass is given by Hooke’s law,
F = −kx .
We can visualize the behavior of this force using a graph of F versus
x, as shown in ﬁgure f. The graph is a line, and the spring constant,
k, is equal to minus its slope. A stiﬀer spring has a larger value of
k and a steeper slope. Hooke’s law is only an approximation, but
it works very well for most springs in real life, as long as the spring
Section 1.2 Simple Harmonic Motion 17
g / Seen from close up, any
F −x curve looks like a line.
isn’t compressed or stretched so much that it is permanently bent
or damaged.
The following important theorem, whose proof is given in op
tional section 1.3, relates the motion graph to the force graph.
Theorem: A linear force graph makes a sinusoidal motion
graph.
If the total force on a vibrating object depends only on the
object’s position, and is related to the objects displacement
from equilibrium by an equation of the form F = −kx, then
the object’s motion displays a sinusoidal graph with period
T = 2π
m/k.
Even if you do not read the proof, it is not too hard to understand
why the equation for the period makes sense. A greater mass causes
a greater period, since the force will not be able to whip a massive
object back and forth very rapidly. A larger value of k causes a
shorter period, because a stronger force can whip the object back
and forth more rapidly.
This may seem like only an obscure theorem about the masson
aspring system, but ﬁgure g shows it to be far more general than
that. Figure g/1 depicts a force curve that is not a straight line. A
system with this F −x curve would have largeamplitude vibrations
that were complex and not sinusoidal. But the same system would
exhibit sinusoidal smallamplitude vibrations. This is because any
curve looks linear from very close up. If we magnify the F − x
graph as shown in ﬁgure g/2, it becomes very diﬃcult to tell that
the graph is not a straight line. If the vibrations were conﬁned to
the region shown in g/2, they would be very nearly sinusoidal. This
is the reason why sinusoidal vibrations are a universal feature of
all vibrating systems, if we restrict ourselves to small amplitudes.
The theorem is therefore of great general signiﬁcance. It applies
throughout the universe, to objects ranging from vibrating stars to
vibrating nuclei. A sinusoidal vibration is known as simple harmonic
motion.
Period is approximately independent of amplitude, if the
amplitude is small.
Until now we have not even mentioned the most counterintu
itive aspect of the equation T = 2π
m/k: it does not depend on
amplitude at all. Intuitively, most people would expect the masson
aspring system to take longer to complete a cycle if the amplitude
was larger. (We are comparing amplitudes that are diﬀerent from
each other, but both small enough that the theorem applies.) In
fact the largeramplitude vibrations take the same amount of time
as the smallamplitude ones. This is because at large amplitudes,
the force is greater, and therefore accelerates the object to higher
speeds.
18 Chapter 1 Vibrations
h / The object moves along
the circle at constant speed,
but even though its overall
speed is constant, the x and y
components of its velocity are
continuously changing, as shown
by the unequal spacing of the
points when projected onto the
line below. Projected onto the
line, its motion is the same as
that of an object experiencing a
force F = −kx.
Legend has it that this fact was ﬁrst noticed by Galileo during
what was apparently a less than enthralling church service. A gust
of wind would now and then start one of the chandeliers in the
cathedral swaying back and forth, and he noticed that regardless
of the amplitude of the vibrations, the period of oscillation seemed
to be the same. Up until that time, he had been carrying out his
physics experiments with such crude timemeasuring techniques as
feeling his own pulse or singing a tune to keep a musical beat. But
after going home and testing a pendulum, he convinced himself that
he had found a superior method of measuring time. Even without
a fancy system of pulleys to keep the pendulum’s vibrations from
dying down, he could get very accurate time measurements, because
the gradual decrease in amplitude due to friction would have no
eﬀect on the pendulum’s period. (Galileo never produced a modern
style pendulum clock with pulleys, a minute hand, and a second
hand, but within a generation the device had taken on the form
that persisted for hundreds of years after.)
The pendulum example 4
Compare the periods of pendula having bobs with different masses.
From the equation T = 2π
m/k, we might expect that a larger
mass would lead to a longer period. However, increasing the
mass also increases the forces that act on the pendulum: gravity
and the tension in the string. This increases k as well as m, so
the period of a pendulum is independent of m.
1.3 Proofs
In this section we prove (1) that a linear F − x graph gives
sinusoidal motion, (2) that the period of the motion is 2π
m/k,
and (3) that the period is independent of the amplitude. You may
omit this section without losing the continuity of the chapter.
The basic idea of the proof can be understood by imagining
that you are watching a child on a merrygoround from far away.
Because you are in the same horizontal plane as her motion, she
appears to be moving from side to side along a line. Circular motion
viewed edgeon doesn’t just look like any kind of backandforth
motion, it looks like motion with a sinusoidal x−t graph, because the
sine and cosine functions can be deﬁned as the x and y coordinates
of a point at angle θ on the unit circle. The idea of the proof, then,
is to show that an object acted on by a force that varies as F = −kx
has motion that is identical to circular motion projected down to
one dimension. The v
2
/r expression will also fall out at the end.
Section 1.3 Proofs 19
The moons of Jupiter. example 5
Before moving on to the proof, we illustrate the concept using
the moons of Jupiter. Their discovery by Galileo was an epochal
event in astronomy, because it proved that not everything in the
universe had to revolve around the earth as had been believed.
Galileo’s telescope was of poor quality by modern standards, but
ﬁgure i shows a simulation of how Jupiter and its moons might
appear at intervals of three hours through a large presentday in
strument. Because we see the moons’ circular orbits edgeon,
they appear to perform sinusoidal vibrations. Over this time pe
riod, the innermost moon, Io, completes half a cycle.
i / Example 5.
For an object performing uniform circular motion, we have
a =
v
2
r
.
The x component of the acceleration is therefore
a
x
=
v
2
r
cos θ ,
where θ is the angle measured counterclockwise from the x axis.
Applying Newton’s second law,
F
x
m
= −
v
2
r
cos θ , so
F
x
= −m
v
2
r
cos θ .
Since our goal is an equation involving the period, it is natural to
eliminate the variable v = circumference/T = 2πr/T, giving
F
x
= −
4π
2
mr
T
2
cos θ .
20 Chapter 1 Vibrations
The quantity r cos θ is the same as x, so we have
F
x
= −
4π
2
m
T
2
x .
Since everything is constant in this equation except for x, we have
proved that motion with force proportional to x is the same as circu
lar motion projected onto a line, and therefore that a force propor
tional to x gives sinusoidal motion. Finally, we identify the constant
factor of 4π
2
m/T
2
with k, and solving for T gives the desired equa
tion for the period,
T = 2π
m
k
.
Since this equation is independent of r, T is independent of the
amplitude, subject to the initial assumption of perfect F = −kx
behavior, which in reality will only hold approximately for small x.
Section 1.3 Proofs 21
Summary
Selected Vocabulary
periodic motion . motion that repeats itself over and over
period . . . . . . . the time required for one cycle of a periodic
motion
frequency . . . . . the number of cycles per second, the inverse of
the period
amplitude . . . . the amount of vibration, often measured from
the center to one side; may have diﬀerent units
depending on the nature of the vibration
simple harmonic
motion . . . . . .
motion whose x −t graph is a sine wave
Notation
T . . . . . . . . . period
f . . . . . . . . . . frequency
A . . . . . . . . . amplitude
k . . . . . . . . . . the slope of the graph of F versus x, where
F is the total force acting on an object and
x is the object’s position; For a spring, this is
known as the spring constant.
Other Terminology and Notation
ν . . . . . . . . . . The Greek letter ν, nu, is used in many books
for frequency.
ω . . . . . . . . . . The Greek letter ω, omega, is often used as an
abbreviation for 2πf.
Summary
Periodic motion is common in the world around us because of
conservation laws. An important example is onedimensional motion
in which the only two forms of energy involved are potential and
kinetic; in such a situation, conservation of energy requires that an
object repeat its motion, because otherwise when it came back to
the same point, it would have to have a diﬀerent kinetic energy and
therefore a diﬀerent total energy.
Not only are periodic vibrations very common, but smallamplitude
vibrations are always sinusoidal as well. That is, the x−t graph is a
sine wave. This is because the graph of force versus position will al
ways look like a straight line on a suﬃciently small scale. This type
of vibration is called simple harmonic motion. In simple harmonic
motion, the period is independent of the amplitude, and is given by
T = 2π
m/k .
22 Chapter 1 Vibrations
Problem 4.
Problems
Key
√
A computerized answer check is available online.
A problem that requires calculus.
A diﬃcult problem.
1 Find an equation for the frequency of simple harmonic motion
in terms of k and m.
2 Many singlecelled organisms propel themselves through water
with long tails, which they wiggle back and forth. (The most obvious
example is the sperm cell.) The frequency of the tail’s vibration is
typically about 1015 Hz. To what range of periods does this range
of frequencies correspond?
3 (a) Pendulum 2 has a string twice as long as pendulum 1. If
we deﬁne x as the distance traveled by the bob along a circle away
from the bottom, how does the k of pendulum 2 compare with the
k of pendulum 1? Give a numerical ratio. [Hint: the total force
on the bob is the same if the angles away from the bottom are the
same, but equal angles do not correspond to equal values of x.]
(b) Based on your answer from part (a), how does the period of pen
dulum 2 compare with the period of pendulum 1? Give a numerical
ratio.
4 A pneumatic spring consists of a piston riding on top of the
air in a cylinder. The upward force of the air on the piston is
given by F
air
= ax
−1.4
, where a is a constant with funny units of
N· m
1.4
. For simplicity, assume the air only supports the weight,
F
W
, of the piston itself, although in practice this device is used to
support some other object. The equilibrium position, x
0
, is where
F
W
equals −F
air
. (Note that in the main text I have assumed
the equilibrium position to be at x = 0, but that is not the natural
choice here.) Assume friction is negligible, and consider a case where
the amplitude of the vibrations is very small. Let a = 1.0 N· m
1.4
,
x
0
= 1.00 m, and F
W
= −1.00 N. The piston is released from
x = 1.01 m. Draw a neat, accurate graph of the total force, F, as a
function of x, on graph paper, covering the range from x = 0.98 m
to 1.02 m. Over this small range, you will ﬁnd that the force is
very nearly proportional to x − x
0
. Approximate the curve with a
straight line, ﬁnd its slope, and derive the approximate period of
oscillation.
√
5 Consider the same pneumatic piston described in problem
4, but now imagine that the oscillations are not small. Sketch a
graph of the total force on the piston as it would appear over this
wider range of motion. For a wider range of motion, explain why
the vibration of the piston about equilibrium is not simple harmonic
motion, and sketch a graph of x vs t, showing roughly how the curve
is diﬀerent from a sine wave. [Hint: Acceleration corresponds to the
Problems 23
Problem 7.
curvature of the x − t graph, so if the force is greater, the graph
should curve around more quickly.]
6 Archimedes’ principle states that an object partly or wholly
immersed in ﬂuid experiences a buoyant force equal to the weight
of the ﬂuid it displaces. For instance, if a boat is ﬂoating in water,
the upward pressure of the water (vector sum of all the forces of
the water pressing inward and upward on every square inch of its
hull) must be equal to the weight of the water displaced, because
if the boat was instantly removed and the hole in the water ﬁlled
back in, the force of the surrounding water would be just the right
amount to hold up this new “chunk” of water. (a) Show that a cube
of mass m with edges of length b ﬂoating upright (not tilted) in a
ﬂuid of density ρ will have a draft (depth to which it sinks below
the waterline) h given at equilibrium by h
0
= m/b
2
ρ. (b) Find the
total force on the cube when its draft is h, and verify that plugging
in h − h
0
gives a total force of zero. (c) Find the cube’s period of
oscillation as it bobs up and down in the water, and show that can
be expressed in terms of and g only.
7 The ﬁgure shows a seesaw with two springs at Codornices Park
in Berkeley, California. Each spring has spring constant k, and a
kid of mass m sits on each seat. (a) Find the period of vibration in
terms of the variables k, m, a, and b. (b) Discuss the special case
where a = b, rather than a > b as in the real seesaw. (c) Show that
your answer to part a also makes sense in the case of b = 0.
8 Show that the equation T = 2π
m/k has units that make
sense.
9 A hot scientiﬁc question of the 18th century was the shape
of the earth: whether its radius was greater at the equator than at
the poles, or the other way around. One method used to attack this
question was to measure gravity accurately in diﬀerent locations
on the earth using pendula. If the highest and lowest latitudes
accessible to explorers were 0 and 70 degrees, then the the strength
of gravity would in reality be observed to vary over a range from
about 9.780 to 9.826 m/s
2
. This change, amounting to 0.046 m/s
2
,
is greater than the 0.022 m/s
2
eﬀect to be expected if the earth
had been spherical. The greater eﬀect occurs because the equator
feels a reduction due not just to the acceleration of the spinning
earth out from under it, but also to the greater radius of the earth
at the equator. What is the accuracy with which the period of a
onesecond pendulum would have to be measured in order to prove
that the earth was not a sphere, and that it bulged at the equator?
24 Chapter 1 Vibrations
Top: A series of images from
a ﬁlm of the Tacoma Narrows
Bridge vibrating on the day it was
to collapse. Middle: The bridge
immediately before the collapse,
with the sides vibrating 8.5 me
ters (28 feet) up and down. Note
that the bridge is over a mile long.
Bottom: During and after the ﬁ
nal collapse. The righthand pic
ture gives a sense of the massive
scale of the construction.
Chapter 2
Resonance
Soon after the milelong Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened in July
1940, motorists began to notice its tendency to vibrate frighteningly
in even a moderate wind. Nicknamed “Galloping Gertie,” the bridge
collapsed in a steady 42mileperhour wind on November 7 of the
same year. The following is an eyewitness report from a newspaper
editor who found himself on the bridge as the vibrations approached
the breaking point.
“Just as I drove past the towers, the bridge began to sway vi
olently from side to side. Before I realized it, the tilt became so
violent that I lost control of the car... I jammed on the brakes and
25
got out, only to be thrown onto my face against the curb.
“Around me I could hear concrete cracking. I started to get my
dog Tubby, but was thrown again before I could reach the car. The
car itself began to slide from side to side of the roadway.
“On hands and knees most of the time, I crawled 500 yards or
more to the towers... My breath was coming in gasps; my knees
were raw and bleeding, my hands bruised and swollen from gripping
the concrete curb... Toward the last, I risked rising to my feet and
running a few yards at a time... Safely back at the toll plaza, I
saw the bridge in its ﬁnal collapse and saw my car plunge into the
Narrows.”
The ruins of the bridge formed an artiﬁcial reef, one of the
world’s largest. It was not replaced for ten years. The reason for
its collapse was not substandard materials or construction, nor was
the bridge underdesigned: the piers were hundredfoot blocks of
concrete, the girders massive and made of carbon steel. The bridge
was destroyed because of the physical phenomenon of resonance,
the same eﬀect that allows an opera singer to break a wine glass
with her voice and that lets you tune in the radio station you want.
The replacement bridge, which has lasted half a century so far, was
built smarter, not stronger. The engineers learned their lesson and
simply included some slight modiﬁcations to avoid the resonance
phenomenon that spelled the doom of the ﬁrst one.
2.1 Energy In Vibrations
One way of describing the collapse of the bridge is that the bridge
kept taking energy from the steadily blowing wind and building up
more and more energetic vibrations. In this section, we discuss the
energy contained in a vibration, and in the subsequent sections we
will move on to the loss of energy and the adding of energy to a
vibrating system, all with the goal of understanding the important
phenomenon of resonance.
Going back to our standard example of a mass on a spring, we
ﬁnd that there are two forms of energy involved: the potential energy
stored in the spring and the kinetic energy of the moving mass. We
may start the system in motion either by hitting the mass to put in
kinetic energy by pulling it to one side to put in potential energy.
Either way, the subsequent behavior of the system is identical. It
trades energy back and forth between kinetic and potential energy.
(We are still assuming there is no friction, so that no energy is
converted to heat, and the system never runs down.)
The most important thing to understand about the energy con
tent of vibrations is that the total energy is proportional to the
26 Chapter 2 Resonance
a / Example 1.
square of the amplitude. Although the total energy is constant, it
is instructive to consider two speciﬁc moments in the motion of the
mass on a spring as examples. When the mass is all the way to
one side, at rest and ready to reverse directions, all its energy is
potential. We have already seen that the potential energy stored
in a spring equals (1/2)kx
2
, so the energy is proportional to the
square of the amplitude. Now consider the moment when the mass
is passing through the equilibrium point at x = 0. At this point it
has no potential energy, but it does have kinetic energy. The veloc
ity is proportional to the amplitude of the motion, and the kinetic
energy, (1/2)mv
2
, is proportional to the square of the velocity, so
again we ﬁnd that the energy is proportional to the square of the
amplitude. The reason for singling out these two points is merely
instructive; proving that energy is proportional to A
2
at any point
would suﬃce to prove that energy is proportional to A
2
in general,
since the energy is constant.
Are these conclusions restricted to the massonaspring exam
ple? No. We have already seen that F = −kx is a valid approxima
tion for any vibrating object, as long as the amplitude is small. We
are thus left with a very general conclusion: the energy of any vibra
tion is approximately proportional to the square of the amplitude,
provided that the amplitude is small.
Water in a Utube example 1
If water is poured into a Ushaped tube as shown in the ﬁgure, it
can undergo vibrations about equilibrium. The energy of such a
vibration is most easily calculated by considering the “turnaround
point” when the water has stopped and is about to reverse direc
tions. At this point, it has only potential energy and no kinetic
energy, so by calculating its potential energy we can ﬁnd the en
ergy of the vibration. This potential energy is the same as the
work that would have to be done to take the water out of the right
hand side down to a depth A below the equilibrium level, raise it
through a height A, and place it in the lefthand side. The weight
of this chunk of water is proportional to A, and so is the height
through which it must be lifted, so the energy is proportional to
A
2
.
The range of energies of sound waves example 2
The amplitude of vibration of your eardrum at the threshold of
pain is about 10
6
times greater than the amplitude with which
it vibrates in response to the softest sound you can hear. How
many times greater is the energy with which your ear has to cope
for the painfully loud sound, compared to the soft sound?
The amplitude is 10
6
times greater, and energy is proportional
to the square of the amplitude, so the energy is greater by a factor
Section 2.1 Energy In Vibrations 27
b / Friction has the effect of
pinching the x − t graph of a
vibrating object.
of 10
12
. This is a phenomenally large factor!
We are only studying vibrations right now, not waves, so we are
not yet concerned with how a sound wave works, or how the energy
gets to us through the air. Note that because of the huge range of
energies that our ear can sense, it would not be reasonable to have
a sense of loudness that was additive. Consider, for instance, the
following three levels of sound:
barely audible wind
quiet conversation . . . . 10
5
times more energy than the
wind
heavy metal concert . . 10
12
times more energy than the
wind
In terms of addition and subtraction, the diﬀerence between the
wind and the quiet conversation is nothing compared to the diﬀer
ence between the quiet conversation and the heavy metal concert.
Evolution wanted our sense of hearing to be able to encompass all
these sounds without collapsing the bottom of the scale so that any
thing softer than the crack of doom would sound the same. So rather
than making our sense of loudness additive, mother nature made it
multiplicative. We sense the diﬀerence between the wind and the
quiet conversation as spanning a range of about 5/12 as much as the
whole range from the wind to the heavy metal concert. Although
a detailed discussion of the decibel scale is not relevant here, the
basic point to note about the decibel scale is that it is logarithmic.
The zero of the decibel scale is close to the lower limit of human
hearing, and adding 1 unit to the decibel measurement corresponds
to multiplying the energy level (or actually the power per unit area)
by a certain factor.
2.2 Energy Lost From Vibrations
Until now, we have been making the relatively unrealistic as
sumption that a vibration would never die out. For a realistic mass
on a spring, there will be friction, and the kinetic and potential
energy of the vibrations will therefore be gradually converted into
heat. Similarly, a guitar string will slowly convert its kinetic and
potential energy into sound. In all cases, the eﬀect is to “pinch” the
sinusoidal x − t graph more and more with passing time. Friction
is not necessarily bad in this context — a musical instrument that
never got rid of any of its energy would be completely silent! The
dissipation of the energy in a vibration is known as damping.
selfcheck A
Most people who try to draw graphs like those shown on the left will
tend to shrink their wiggles horizontally as well as vertically. Why is this
wrong? Answer, p. 101
In the graphs in ﬁgure b, I have not shown any point at which
28 Chapter 2 Resonance
c / The amplitude is halved
with each cycle.
the damped vibration ﬁnally stops completely. Is this realistic? Yes
and no. If energy is being lost due to friction between two solid
surfaces, then we expect the force of friction to be nearly indepen
dent of velocity. This constant friction force puts an upper limit on
the total distance that the vibrating object can ever travel without
replenishing its energy, since work equals force times distance, and
the object must stop doing work when its energy is all converted
into heat. (The friction force does reverse directions when the ob
ject turns around, but reversing the direction of the motion at the
same time that we reverse the direction of the force makes it certain
that the object is always doing positive work, not negative work.)
Damping due to a constant friction force is not the only possi
bility however, or even the most common one. A pendulum may
be damped mainly by air friction, which is approximately propor
tional to v
2
, while other systems may exhibit friction forces that
are proportional to v. It turns out that friction proportional to v
is the simplest case to analyze mathematically, and anyhow all the
important physical insights can be gained by studying this case.
If the friction force is proportional to v, then as the vibrations
die down, the frictional forces get weaker due to the lower speeds.
The less energy is left in the system, the more miserly the system
becomes with giving away any more energy. Under these conditions,
the vibrations theoretically never die out completely, and mathemat
ically, the loss of energy from the system is exponential: the system
loses a ﬁxed percentage of its energy per cycle. This is referred to
as exponential decay.
A nonrigorous proof is as follows. The force of friction is pro
portional to v, and v is proportional to how far the objects travels in
one cycle, so the frictional force is proportional to amplitude. The
amount of work done by friction is proportional to the force and to
the distance traveled, so the work done in one cycle is proportional
to the square of the amplitude. Since both the work and the energy
are proportional to A
2
, the amount of energy taken away by friction
in one cycle is a ﬁxed percentage of the amount of energy the system
has.
selfcheck B
Figure c shows an xt graph for a strongly damped vibration, which loses
half of its amplitude with every cycle. What fraction of the energy is lost
in each cycle? Answer, p. 101
It is customary to describe the amount of damping with a quan
tity called the quality factor, Q, deﬁned as the number of cycles
required for the energy to fall oﬀ by a factor of 535. (The origin
of this obscure numerical factor is e
2π
, where e = 2.71828 . . . is the
base of natural logarithms. Choosing this particular number causes
some of our later equations to come out nice and simple.) The ter
minology arises from the fact that friction is often considered a bad
Section 2.2 Energy Lost From Vibrations 29
d / 1. Pushing a child on a
swing gradually puts more and
more energy into her vibrations.
2. A fairly realistic graph of the
driving force acting on the child.
3. A less realistic, but more
mathematically simple, driving
force.
thing, so a mechanical device that can vibrate for many oscillations
before it loses a signiﬁcant fraction of its energy would be considered
a highquality device.
Exponential decay in a trumpet example 3
The vibrations of the air column inside a trumpet have a Q of
about 10. This means that even after the trumpet player stops
blowing, the note will keep sounding for a short time. If the player
suddenly stops blowing, how will the sound intensity 20 cycles
later compare with the sound intensity while she was still blowing?
The trumpet’s Q is 10, so after 10 cycles the energy will have
fallen off by a factor of 535. After another 10 cycles we lose an
other factor of 535, so the sound intensity is reduced by a factor
of 535 ×535 = 2.9 ×10
5
.
The decay of a musical sound is part of what gives it its charac
ter, and a good musical instrument should have the right Q, but the
Q that is considered desirable is diﬀerent for diﬀerent instruments.
A guitar is meant to keep on sounding for a long time after a string
has been plucked, and might have a Q of 1000 or 10000. One of the
reasons why a cheap synthesizer sounds so bad is that the sound
suddenly cuts oﬀ after a key is released.
Q of a stereo speaker example 4
Stereo speakers are not supposed to reverberate or “ring” after an
electrical signal that stops suddenly. After all, the recorded music
was made by musicians who knew how to shape the decays of
their notes correctly. Adding a longer “tail” on every note would
make it sound wrong. We therefore expect that stereo speaker
will have a very low Q, and indeed, most speakers are designed
with a Q of about 1. (Lowquality speakers with larger Q values
are referred to as “boomy.”)
We will see later in the chapter that there are other reasons why
a speaker should not have a high Q.
2.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations
When pushing a child on a swing, you cannot just apply a con
stant force. A constant force will move the swing out to a certain
angle, but will not allow the swing to start swinging. Nor can you
give short pushes at randomly chosen times. That type of ran
dom pushing would increase the child’s kinetic energy whenever you
happened to be pushing in the same direction as her motion, but it
would reduce her energy when your pushing happened to be in the
opposite direction compared to her motion. To make her build up
her energy, you need to make your pushes rhythmic, pushing at the
same point in each cycle. In other words, your force needs to form a
repeating pattern with the same frequency as the normal frequency
of vibration of the swing. Graph d/1 shows what the child’s x − t
30 Chapter 2 Resonance
e / The amplitude approaches a
maximum.
graph would look like as you gradually put more and more energy
into her vibrations. A graph of your force versus time would prob
ably look something like graph 2. It turns out, however, that it is
much simpler mathematically to consider a vibration with energy
being pumped into it by a driving force that is itself a sinewave, 3.
A good example of this is your eardrum being driven by the force
of a sound wave.
Now we know realistically that the child on the swing will not
keep increasing her energy forever, nor does your eardrum end up
exploding because a continuing sound wave keeps pumping more and
more energy into it. In any realistic system, there is energy going
out as well as in. As the vibrations increase in amplitude, there is an
increase in the amount of energy taken away by damping with each
cycle. This occurs for two reasons. Work equals force times distance
(or, more accurately, the area under the forcedistance curve). As
the amplitude of the vibrations increases, the damping force is being
applied over a longer distance. Furthermore, the damping force
usually increases with velocity (we usually assume for simplicity
that it is proportional to velocity), and this also serves to increase
the rate at which damping forces remove energy as the amplitude
increases. Eventually (and small children and our eardrums are
thankful for this!), the amplitude approaches a maximum value, e,
at which energy is removed by the damping force just as quickly as
it is being put in by the driving force.
This process of approaching a maximum amplitude happens ex
tremely quickly in many cases, e.g., the ear or a radio receiver, and
we don’t even notice that it took a millisecond or a microsecond
for the vibrations to “build up steam.” We are therefore mainly
interested in predicting the behavior of the system once it has had
enough time to reach essentially its maximum amplitude. This is
known as the steadystate behavior of a vibrating system.
Now comes the interesting part: what happens if the frequency
of the driving force is mismatched to the frequency at which the
system would naturally vibrate on its own? We all know that a
radio station doesn’t have to be tuned in exactly, although there is
only a small range over which a given station can be received. The
designers of the radio had to make the range fairly small to make
it possible eliminate unwanted stations that happened to be nearby
in frequency, but it couldn’t be too small or you wouldn’t be able
to adjust the knob accurately enough. (Even a digital radio can
be tuned to 88.0 MHz and still bring in a station at 88.1 MHz.)
The ear also has some natural frequency of vibration, but in this
case the range of frequencies to which it can respond is quite broad.
Evolution has made the ear’s frequency response as broad as pos
sible because it was to our ancestors’ advantage to be able to hear
everything from a low roars to a highpitched shriek.
The remainder of this section develops four important facts about
Section 2.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations 31
the response of a system to a driving force whose frequency is not
necessarily the same as the system’s natural frequency of vibration.
The style is approximate and intuitive, but proofs are given in the
subsequent optional section.
First, although we know the ear has a frequency — about 4000
Hz — at which it would vibrate naturally, it does not vibrate at
4000 Hz in response to a lowpitched 200 Hz tone. It always re
sponds at the frequency at which it is driven. Otherwise all pitches
would sound like 4000 Hz to us. This is a general fact about driven
vibrations:
(1) The steadystate response to a sinusoidal driving force oc
curs at the frequency of the force, not at the system’s own natural
frequency of vibration.
Now let’s think about the amplitude of the steadystate response.
Imagine that a child on a swing has a natural frequency of vibration
of 1 Hz, but we are going to try to make her swing back and forth at
3 Hz. We intuitively realize that quite a large force would be needed
to achieve an amplitude of even 30 cm, i.e., the amplitude is less in
proportion to the force. When we push at the natural frequency of
1 Hz, we are essentially just pumping energy back into the system
to compensate for the loss of energy due to the damping (friction)
force. At 3 Hz, however, we are not just counteracting friction. We
are also providing an extra force to make the child’s momentum
reverse itself more rapidly than it would if gravity and the tension
in the chain were the only forces acting. It is as if we are artiﬁcially
increasing the k of the swing, but this is wasted eﬀort because we
spend just as much time decelerating the child (taking energy out
of the system) as accelerating her (putting energy in).
Now imagine the case in which we drive the child at a very
low frequency, say 0.02 Hz or about one vibration per minute. We
are essentially just holding the child in position while very slowly
walking back and forth. Again we intuitively recognize that the
amplitude will be very small in proportion to our driving force.
Imagine how hard it would be to hold the child at our own head
level when she is at the end of her swing! As in the toofast 3 Hz
case, we are spending most of our eﬀort in artiﬁcially changing the
k of the swing, but now rather than reinforcing the gravity and
tension forces we are working against them, eﬀectively reducing k.
Only a very small part of our force goes into counteracting friction,
and the rest is used in repetitively putting potential energy in on
the upswing and taking it back out on the downswing, without any
longterm gain.
We can now generalize to make the following statement, which
is true for all driven vibrations:
32 Chapter 2 Resonance
f / The collapsed section of
the Nimitz Freeway.
(2) A vibrating system resonates at its own natural frequency.
That is, the amplitude of the steadystate response is greatest in
proportion to the amount of driving force when the driving force
matches the natural frequency of vibration.
An opera singer breaking a wine glass example 5
In order to break a wineglass by singing, an opera singer must
ﬁrst tap the glass to ﬁnd its natural frequency of vibration, and
then sing the same note back.
Collapse of the Nimitz Freeway in an earthquake example 6
I led off the chapter with the dramatic collapse of the Tacoma
Narrows Bridge, mainly because a it was well documented by a
local physics professor, and an unknown person made a movie
of the collapse. The collapse of a section of the Nimitz Freeway
in Oakland, CA, during a 1989 earthquake is however a simpler
example to analyze.
An earthquake consists of many lowfrequency vibrations that oc
cur simultaneously, which is why it sounds like a rumble of inde
terminate pitch rather than a low hum. The frequencies that we
can hear are not even the strongest ones; most of the energy is
in the form of vibrations in the range of frequencies from about 1
Hz to 10 Hz.
Now all the structures we build are resting on geological layers
of dirt, mud, sand, or rock. When an earthquake wave comes
along, the topmost layer acts like a system with a certain natural
frequency of vibration, sort of like a cube of jello on a plate being
shaken from side to side. The resonant frequency of the layer
depends on how stiff it is and also on how deep it is. The ill
fated section of the Nimitz freeway was built on a layer of mud,
and analysis by geologist Susan E. Hough of the U.S. Geological
Survey shows that the mud layer’s resonance was centered on
about 2.5 Hz, and had a width covering a range from about 1 Hz
to 4 Hz.
When the earthquake wave came along with its mixture of fre
quencies, the mud responded strongly to those that were close to
its own natural 2.5 Hz frequency. Unfortunately, an engineering
analysis after the quake showed that the overpass itself had a res
onant frequency of 2.5 Hz as well! The mud responded strongly to
the earthquake waves with frequencies close to 2.5 Hz, and the
bridge responded strongly to the 2.5 Hz vibrations of the mud,
causing sections of it to collapse.
Collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge example 7
Let’s now examine the more conceptually difﬁcult case of the
Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The surprise here is that the wind was
Section 2.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations 33
steady. If the wind was blowing at constant velocity, why did it
shake the bridge back and forth? The answer is a little compli
cated. Based on ﬁlm footage and afterthefact wind tunnel exper
iments, it appears that two different mechanisms were involved.
The ﬁrst mechanism was the one responsible for the initial, rel
atively weak vibrations, and it involved resonance. As the wind
moved over the bridge, it began acting like a kite or an airplane
wing. As shown in the ﬁgure, it established swirling patterns of air
ﬂow around itself, of the kind that you can see in a moving cloud
of smoke. As one of these swirls moved off of the bridge, there
was an abrupt change in air pressure, which resulted in an up or
down force on the bridge. We see something similar when a ﬂag
ﬂaps in the wind, except that the ﬂag’s surface is usually verti
cal. This backandforth sequence of forces is exactly the kind of
periodic driving force that would excite a resonance. The faster
the wind, the more quickly the swirls would get across the bridge,
and the higher the frequency of the driving force would be. At just
the right velocity, the frequency would be the right one to excite
the resonance. The windtunnel models, however, show that the
pattern of vibration of the bridge excited by this mechanism would
have been a different one than the one that ﬁnally destroyed the
bridge.
The bridge was probably destroyed by a different mechanism, in
which its vibrations at its own natural frequency of 0.2 Hz set up
an alternating pattern of wind gusts in the air immediately around
it, which then increased the amplitude of the bridge’s vibrations.
This vicious cycle fed upon itself, increasing the amplitude of the
vibrations until the bridge ﬁnally collapsed.
As long as we’re on the subject of collapsing bridges, it is worth
bringing up the reports of bridges falling down when soldiers march
ing over them happened to step in rhythm with the bridge’s natural
frequency of oscillation. This is supposed to have happened in 1831
in Manchester, England, and again in 1849 in Anjou, France. Many
modern engineers and scientists, however, are suspicious of the anal
ysis of these reports. It is possible that the collapses had more to do
with poor construction and overloading than with resonance. The
Nimitz Freeway and Tacoma Narrows Bridge are far better docu
mented, and occurred in an era when engineers’ abilities to analyze
the vibrations of a complex structure were much more advanced.
Emission and absorption of light waves by atoms example 8
In a very thin gas, the atoms are sufﬁciently far apart that they can
act as individual vibrating systems. Although the vibrations are of
a very strange and abstract type described by the theory of quan
tum mechanics, they nevertheless obey the same basic rules as
ordinary mechanical vibrations. When a thin gas made of a cer
tain element is heated, it emits light waves with certain speciﬁc
34 Chapter 2 Resonance
g / The deﬁnition of the full
width at half maximum.
frequencies, which are like a ﬁngerprint of that element. As with
all other vibrations, these atomic vibrations respond most strongly
to a driving force that matches their own natural frequency. Thus
if we have a relatively cold gas with light waves of various fre
quencies passing through it, the gas will absorb light at precisely
those frequencies at which it would emit light if heated.
(3) When a system is driven at resonance, the steadystate vi
brations have an amplitude that is proportional to Q.
This is fairly intuitive. The steadystate behavior is an equilib
rium between energy input from the driving force and energy loss
due to damping. A lowQ oscillator, i.e., one with strong damping,
dumps its energy faster, resulting in loweramplitude steadystate
motion.
selfcheck C
If an opera singer is shopping for a wine glass that she can impress her
friends by breaking, what should she look for? Answer, p. 101
Piano strings ringing in sympathy with a sung note example 9
A sufﬁciently loud musical note sung near a piano with the lid
raised can cause the corresponding strings in the piano to vibrate.
(A piano has a set of three strings for each note, all struck by the
same hammer.) Why would this trick be unlikely to work with a
violin?
If you have heard the sound of a violin being plucked (the pizzi
cato effect), you know that the note dies away very quickly. In
other words, a violin’s Q is much lower than a piano’s. This means
that its resonances are much weaker in amplitude.
Our fourth and ﬁnal fact about resonance is perhaps the most
surprising. It gives us a way to determine numerically how wide
a range of driving frequencies will produce a strong response. As
shown in the graph, resonances do not suddenly fall oﬀ to zero out
side a certain frequency range. It is usual to describe the width of a
resonance by its full width at halfmaximum (FWHM) as illustrated
in ﬁgure g.
(4) The FWHM of a resonance is related to its Q and its resonant
frequency f
res
by the equation
FWHM =
f
res
Q
.
(This equation is only a good approximation when Q is large.)
Why? It is not immediately obvious that there should be any
logical relationship between Q and the FWHM. Here’s the idea. As
Section 2.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations 35
we have seen already, the reason why the response of an oscillator
is smaller away from resonance is that much of the driving force is
being used to make the system act as if it had a diﬀerent k. Roughly
speaking, the halfmaximum points on the graph correspond to the
places where the amount of the driving force being wasted in this
way is the same as the amount of driving force being used pro
ductively to replace the energy being dumped out by the damping
force. If the damping force is strong, then a large amount of force
is needed to counteract it, and we can waste quite a bit of driving
force on changing k before it becomes comparable to the damping
force. If, on the other hand, the damping force is weak, then even a
small amount of force being wasted on changing k will become sig
niﬁcant in proportion, and we cannot get very far from the resonant
frequency before the two are comparable.
Changing the pitch of a wind instrument example 10
A saxophone player normally selects which note to play by
choosing a certain ﬁngering, which gives the saxophone a cer
tain resonant frequency. The musician can also, however, change
the pitch signiﬁcantly by altering the tightness of her lips. This
corresponds to driving the horn slightly off of resonance. If the
pitch can be altered by about 5% up or down (about one musi
cal halfstep) without too much effort, roughly what is the Q of a
saxophone?
Five percent is the width on one side of the resonance, so the
full width is about 10%, FWHM / f
r es
= 0.1. This implies a Q
of about 10, i.e., once the musician stops blowing, the horn will
continue sounding for about 10 cycles before its energy falls off by
a factor of 535. (Blues and jazz saxophone players will typically
choose a mouthpiece that has a low Q, so that they can produce
the bluesy pitchslides typical of their style. “Legit,” i.e., classically
oriented players, use a higherQ setup because their style only
calls for enough pitch variation to produce a vibrato.)
Decay of a saxophone tone example 11
If a typical saxophone setup has a Q of about 10, how long will
it take for a 100Hz tone played on a baritone saxophone to die
down by a factor of 535 in energy, after the player suddenly stops
blowing?
A Q of 10 means that it takes 10 cycles for the vibrations to die
down in energy by a factor of 535. Ten cycles at a frequency of
100 Hz would correspond to a time of 0.1 seconds, which is not
very long. This is why a saxophone note doesn’t “ring” like a note
played on a piano or an electric guitar.
Q of a radio receiver example 12
A radio receiver used in the FM band needs to be tuned in to
within about 0.1 MHz for signals at about 100 MHz. What is its
Q?
36 Chapter 2 Resonance
h / Example 14. 1. A com
pass needle vibrates about the
equilibrium position under the
inﬂuence of the earth’s magnetic
forces. 2. The orientation of a
proton’s spin vibrates around its
equilibrium direction under the
inﬂuence of the magnetic forces
coming from the surrounding
electrons and nuclei.
i / A member of the author’s
family, who turned out to be
healthy.
j / A threedimensional com
puter reconstruction of the shape
of a human brain, based on
magnetic resonance data.
Q = f
r es
/FWHM = 1000. This is an extremely high Q compared
to most mechanical systems.
Q of a stereo speaker example 13
We have already given one reason why a stereo speaker should
have a low Q: otherwise it would continue ringing after the end of
the musical note on the recording. The second reason is that we
want it to be able to respond to a large range of frequencies.
Nuclear magnetic resonance example 14
If you have ever played with a magnetic compass, you have un
doubtedly noticed that if you shake it, it takes some time to settle
down, h/1. As it settles down, it acts like a damped oscillator of
the type we have been discussing. The compass needle is simply
a small magnet, and the planet earth is a big magnet. The mag
netic forces between them tend to bring the needle to an equilib
rium position in which it lines up with the planetearthmagnet.
Essentially the same physics lies behind the technique called Nu
clear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). NMR is a technique used to
deduce the molecular structure of unknown chemical substances,
and it is also used for making medical images of the inside of peo
ple’s bodies. If you ever have an NMR scan, they will actually tell
you you are undergoing “magnetic resonance imaging” or “MRI,”
because people are scared of the word “nuclear.” In fact, the
nuclei being referred to are simply the nonradioactive nuclei of
atoms found naturally in your body.
Here’s how NMR works. Your body contains large numbers of
hydrogen atoms, each consisting of a small, lightweight electron
orbiting around a large, heavy proton. That is, the nucleus of a
hydrogen atom is just one proton. A proton is always spinning
on its own axis, and the combination of its spin and its electrical
charge cause it to behave like a tiny magnet. The principle iden
tical to that of an electromagnet, which consists of a coil of wire
through which electrical charges pass; the circling motion of the
charges in the coil of wire makes it magnetic, and in the same
way, the circling motion of the proton’s charge makes it magnetic.
Now a proton in one of your body’s hydrogen atoms ﬁnds itself
surrounded by many other whirling, electrically charged particles:
its own electron, plus the electrons and nuclei of the other nearby
atoms. These neighbors act like magnets, and exert magnetic
forces on the proton, h/2. The k of the vibrating proton is simply a
measure of the total strength of these magnetic forces. Depend
ing on the structure of the molecule in which the hydrogen atom
ﬁnds itself, there will be a particular set of magnetic forces acting
on the proton and a particular value of k. The NMR apparatus
bombards the sample with radio waves, and if the frequency of
the radio waves matches the resonant frequency of the proton,
the proton will absorb radiowave energy strongly and oscillate
Section 2.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations 37
k / Driving at a frequency above
resonance.
l / Driving at resonance.
m / Driving at a frequency
below resonance.
wildly. Its vibrations are damped not by friction, because there is
no friction inside an atom, but by the reemission of radio waves.
By working backward through this chain of reasoning, one can de
termine the geometric arrangement of the hydrogen atom’s neigh
boring atoms. It is also possible to locate atoms in space, allowing
medical images to be made.
Finally, it should be noted that the behavior of the proton cannot
be described entirely correctly by Newtonian physics. Its vibra
tions are of the strange and spooky kind described by the laws of
quantum mechanics. It is impressive, however, that the few sim
ple ideas we have learned about resonance can still be applied
successfully to describe many aspects of this exotic system.
Discussion Question
A Nikola Tesla, one of the inventors of radio and an archetypical mad
scientist, told a credulous reporter the following story about an applica
tion of resonance. He built an electric vibrator that ﬁt in his pocket, and
attached it to one of the steel beams of a building that was under construc
tion in New York. Although the article in which he was quoted didn’t say
so, he presumably claimed to have tuned it to the resonant frequency of
the building. “In a few minutes, I could feel the beam trembling. Gradually
the trembling increased in intensity and extended throughout the whole
great mass of steel. Finally, the structure began to creak and weave, and
the steelworkers came to the ground panicstricken, believing that there
had been an earthquake. ... [If] I had kept on ten minutes more, I could
have laid that building ﬂat in the street.” Is this physically plausible?
2.4 Proofs
Our ﬁrst goal is to predict the amplitude of the steadystate
vibrations as a function of the frequency of the driving force and
the amplitude of the driving force. With that equation in hand, we
will then prove statements 2, 3, and 4 from the previous section.
We assume without proof statement 1, that the steadystate motion
occurs at the same frequency as the driving force.
As with the proof in chapter 1, we make use of the fact that
a sinusoidal vibration is the same as the projection of circular mo
tion onto a line. We visualize the system shown in ﬁgures km,
in which the mass swings in a circle on the end of a spring. The
spring does not actually change its length at all, but it appears to
from the ﬂattened perspective of a person viewing the system edge
on. The radius of the circle is the amplitude, A, of the vibrations
as seen edgeon. The damping force can be imagined as a back
ward drag force supplied by some ﬂuid through which the mass is
moving. As usual, we assume that the damping is proportional to
velocity, and we use the symbol b for the proportionality constant,
F
d
 = bv. The driving force, represented by a hand towing the mass
with a string, has a tangential component F
t
 which counteracts the
38 Chapter 2 Resonance
damping force, F
t
 = F
d
, and a radial component F
r
which works
either with or against the spring’s force, depending on whether we
are driving the system above or below its resonant frequency.
The speed of the rotating mass is the circumference of the circle
divided by the period, v = 2πA/T, its acceleration (which is directly
inward) is a = v
2
/r, and Newton’s second law gives a = F/m =
(kA +F
r
)/m. We write f
res
for
1
2π
k/m. Straightforward algebra
yields
[1]
F
r
F
t
=
2πm
bf
f
2
−f
2
res
.
This is the ratio of the wasted force to the useful force, and we see
that it becomes zero when the system is driven at resonance.
The amplitude of the vibrations can be found by attacking the
equation F
t
 = bv = 2πbAf, which gives
[2] A =
F
t

2πbf
.(2)
However, we wish to know the amplitude in terms of —F—, not
F
t
. From now on, let’s drop the cumbersome magnitude symbols.
With the Pythagorean theorem, it is easily proven that
[3] F
t
=
F
1 +
Fr
Ft
2
, (3)
and equations 13 can then be combined to give the ﬁnal result
[4] A =
F
2π
4π
2
m
2
(f
2
−f
2
res
)
2
+b
2
f
2
.
Statement 2: maximum amplitude at resonance
Equation 4 shows directly that the amplitude is maximized when
the system is driven at its resonant frequency. At resonance, the ﬁrst
term inside the square root vanishes, and this makes the denomi
nator as small as possible, causing the amplitude to be as big as
possible. (Actually this is only approximately true, because it is
possible to make A a little bigger by decreasing f a little below
f
res
, which makes the second term smaller. This technical issue is
addressed in homework problem 3 on page 43.)
Statement 3: amplitude at resonance proportional to Q
Equation 4 shows that the amplitude at resonance is propor
tional to 1/b, and the Q of the system is inversely proportional to
b, so the amplitude at resonance is proportional to Q.
Section 2.4 Proofs 39
Statement 4: FWHM related to Q
We will satisfy ourselves by proving only the proportionality
FWHM ∝ f
res
/Q, not the actual equation FWHM = f
res
/Q.
The energy is proportional to A
2
, i.e., to the inverse of the quantity
inside the square root in equation 4. At resonance, the ﬁrst term
inside the square root vanishes, and the halfmaximum points occur
at frequencies for which the whole quantity inside the square root
is double its value at resonance, i.e., when the two terms are equal.
At the halfmaximum points, we have
f
2
−f
2
res
=
f
res
±
FWHM
2
2
−f
2
res
= ±f
res
· FWHM +
1
4
FWHM
2
If we assume that the width of the resonance is small compared to
the resonant frequency, then the FWHM
2
term is negligible com
pared to the f
res
· FWHM term, and setting the terms in equation
4 equal to each other gives
4π
2
m
2
(f
res
FWHM)
2
= b
2
f
2
.
We are assuming that the width of the resonance is small compared
to the resonant frequency, so f and f
res
can be taken as synonyms.
Thus,
FWHM =
b
2πm
.
We wish to connect this to Q, which can be interpreted as the en
ergy of the free (undriven) vibrations divided by the work done by
damping in one cycle. The former equals kA
2
/2, and the latter is
proportional to the force, bv ∝ bAf
res
, multiplied by the distance
traveled, A. (This is only a proportionality, not an equation, since
the force is not constant.) We therefore ﬁnd that Q is proportional
to k/bf
res
. The equation for the FWHM can then be restated as a
proportionality FWHM ∝ k/Qf
res
m ∝ f
res
/Q.
40 Chapter 2 Resonance
Summary
Selected Vocabulary
damping . . . . . the dissipation of a vibration’s energy into
heat energy, or the frictional force that causes
the loss of energy
quality factor . . the number of oscillations required for a sys
tem’s energy to fall oﬀ by a factor of 535 due
to damping
driving force . . . an external force that pumps energy into a vi
brating system
resonance . . . . the tendency of a vibrating system to respond
most strongly to a driving force whose fre
quency is close to its own natural frequency
of vibration
steady state . . . the behavior of a vibrating system after it has
had plenty of time to settle into a steady re
sponse to a driving force
Notation
Q . . . . . . . . . the quality factor
f
res
. . . . . . . . the natural (resonant) frequency of a vibrating
system, i.e., the frequency at which it would
vibrate if it was simply kicked and left alone
f . . . . . . . . . . the frequency at which the system actually vi
brates, which in the case of a driven system is
equal to the frequency of the driving force, not
the natural frequency
Summary
The energy of a vibration is always proportional to the square of
the amplitude, assuming the amplitude is small. Energy is lost from
a vibrating system for various reasons such as the conversion to heat
via friction or the emission of sound. This eﬀect, called damping,
will cause the vibrations to decay exponentially unless energy is
pumped into the system to replace the loss. A driving force that
pumps energy into the system may drive the system at its own
natural frequency or at some other frequency. When a vibrating
system is driven by an external force, we are usually interested in
its steadystate behavior, i.e., its behavior after it has had time to
settle into a steady response to a driving force. In the steady state,
the same amount of energy is pumped into the system during each
cycle as is lost to damping during the same period.
The following are four important facts about a vibrating system
being driven by an external force:
(1) The steadystate response to a sinusoidal driving force oc
curs at the frequency of the force, not at the system’s own natural
frequency of vibration.
Summary 41
(2) A vibrating system resonates at its own natural frequency.
That is, the amplitude of the steadystate response is greatest in
proportion to the amount of driving force when the driving force
matches the natural frequency of vibration.
(3) When a system is driven at resonance, the steadystate vi
brations have an amplitude that is proportional to Q.
(4) The FWHM of a resonance is related to its Q and its resonant
frequency f
res
by the equation
FWHM =
f
res
Q
.
(This equation is only a good approximation when Q is large.)
42 Chapter 2 Resonance
Problems
Key
√
A computerized answer check is available online.
A problem that requires calculus.
A diﬃcult problem.
1 If one stereo system is capable of producing 20 watts of sound
power and another can put out 50 watts, how many times greater
is the amplitude of the sound wave that can be created by the more
powerful system? (Assume they are playing the same music.)
2 Many ﬁsh have an organ known as a swim bladder, an airﬁlled
cavity whose main purpose is to control the ﬁsh’s buoyancy an allow
it to keep from rising or sinking without having to use its muscles.
In some ﬁsh, however, the swim bladder (or a small extension of it)
is linked to the ear and serves the additional purpose of amplifying
sound waves. For a typical ﬁsh having such an anatomy, the bladder
has a resonant frequency of 300 Hz, the bladder’s Q is 3, and the
maximum ampliﬁcation is about a factor of 100 in energy. Over what
range of frequencies would the ampliﬁcation be at least a factor of
50?
3 As noted in section 2.4, it is only approximately true that the
amplitude has its maximum at f = (1/2π)
k/m. Being more care
ful, we should actually deﬁne two diﬀerent symbols, f
0
= (1/2π)
k/m
and f
res
for the slightly diﬀerent frequency at which the amplitude
is a maximum, i.e., the actual resonant frequency. In this notation,
the amplitude as a function of frequency is
A =
F
2π
4π
2
m
2
f
2
−f
2
0
2
+b
2
f
2
.
Show that the maximum occurs not at f
o
but rather at the frequency
f
res
=
f
2
0
−
b
2
8π
2
m
2
=
f
2
0
−
1
2
FWHM
2
Hint: Finding the frequency that minimizes the quantity inside the
square root is equivalent to, but much easier than, ﬁnding the fre
quency that maximizes the amplitude.
Problems 43
Problem 6.
4 (a) Let W be the amount of work done by friction in the ﬁrst
cycle of oscillation, i.e., the amount of energy lost to heat. Find
the fraction of the original energy E that remains in the oscillations
after n cycles of motion.
(b) From this, prove the equation
1 −
W
E
Q
= e
−2π
(recalling that the number 535 in the deﬁnition of Q is e
2π
).
(c) Use this to prove the approximation 1/Q ≈ (1/2π)W/E. (Hint:
Use the approximation ln(1 +x) ≈ x, which is valid for small values
of x.)
5 The goal of this problem is to reﬁne the proportionality
FWHM ∝ f
res
/Q into the equation FWHM = f
res
/Q, i.e., to prove
that the constant of proportionality equals 1.
(a) Show that the work done by a damping force F = −bv over one
cycle of steadystate motion equals W
damp
= −2π
2
bfA
2
. Hint: It
is less confusing to calculate the work done over half a cycle, from
x = −A to x = +A, and then double it.
(b) Show that the fraction of the undriven oscillator’s energy lost to
damping over one cycle is W
damp
/E = 4π
2
bf/k.
(c) Use the previous result, combined with the result of problem 4,
to prove that Q equals k/2πbf .
(d) Combine the preceding result for Q with the equation FWHM =
b/2πm from section 2.4 to prove the equation FWHM = f
res
/Q.
6 The ﬁgure is from Shape memory in Spider draglines, Emile,
Le Floch, and Vollrath, Nature 440:621 (2006). Panel 1 shows an
electron microscope’s image of a thread of spider silk. In 2, a spi
der is hanging from such a thread. From an evolutionary point of
view, it’s probably a bad thing for the spider if it twists back and
forth while hanging like this. (We’re referring to a backandforth
rotation about the axis of the thread, not a swinging motion like a
pendulum.) The authors speculate that such a vibration could make
the spider easier for predators to see, and it also seems to me that
it would be a bad thing just because the spider wouldn’t be able
to control its orientation and do what it was trying to do. Panel 3
shows a graph of such an oscillation, which the authors measured
using a video camera and a computer, with a 0.1 g mass hung from it
in place of a spider. Compared to humanmade ﬁbers such as kevlar
or copper wire, the spider thread has an unusual set of properties:
1. It has a low Q, so the vibrations damp out quickly.
44 Chapter 2 Resonance
2. It doesn’t become brittle with repeated twisting as a copper
wire would.
3. When twisted, it tends to settle in to a new equilibrium angle,
rather than insisting on returning to its original angle. You
can see this in panel 2, because although the experimenters
initially twisted the wire by 33 degrees, the thread only per
formed oscillations with an amplitude much smaller than ±35
degrees, settling down to a new equilibrium at 27 degrees.
4. Over much longer time scales (hours), the thread eventually
resets itself to its original equilbrium angle (shown as zero
degrees on the graph). (The graph reproduced here only shows
the motion over a much shorter time scale.) Some human
made materials have this “memory” property as well, but they
typically need to be heated in order to make them go back to
their original shapes.
Focusing on property number 1, estimate the Q of spider silk from
the graph.
Problems 45
46 Chapter 2 Resonance
a / Dipping a ﬁnger in some
water, 1, causes a disturbance
that spreads outward, 2.
“The Great Wave Off Kanagawa,” by Katsushika Hokusai (17601849).
Chapter 3
Free Waves
Your vocal cords or a saxophone reed can vibrate, but being able
to vibrate wouldn’t be of much use unless the vibrations could be
transmitted to the listener’s ear by sound waves. What are waves
and why do they exist? Put your ﬁngertip in the middle of a cup
of water and then remove it suddenly. You will have noticed two
results that are surprising to most people. First, the ﬂat surface
of the water does not simply sink uniformly to ﬁll in the volume
vacated by your ﬁnger. Instead, ripples spread out, and the process
of ﬂattening out occurs over a long period of time, during which
the water at the center vibrates above and below the normal water
level. This type of wave motion is the topic of the present chapter.
Second, you have found that the ripples bounce oﬀ of the walls of
the cup, in much the same way that a ball would bounce oﬀ of a
wall. In the next chapter we discuss what happens to waves that
have a boundary around them. Until then, we conﬁne ourselves to
wave phenomena that can be analyzed as if the medium (e.g., the
water) was inﬁnite and the same everywhere.
It isn’t hard to understand why removing your ﬁngertip creates
ripples rather than simply allowing the water to sink back down
uniformly. The initial crater, (a), left behind by your ﬁnger has
sloping sides, and the water next to the crater ﬂows downhill to ﬁll
in the hole. The water far away, on the other hand, initially has
47
no way of knowing what has happened, because there is no slope
for it to ﬂow down. As the hole ﬁlls up, the rising water at the
center gains upward momentum, and overshoots, creating a little
hill where there had been a hole originally. The area just outside of
this region has been robbed of some of its water in order to build
the hill, so a depressed “moat” is formed, (b). This eﬀect cascades
outward, producing ripples.
48 Chapter 3 Free Waves
b / The two circular patterns of
ripples pass through each other.
Unlike material objects, wave pat
terns can overlap in space, and
when this happens they combine
by addition.
3.1 Wave Motion
There are three main ways in which wave motion diﬀers from the
motion of objects made of matter.
1. Superposition
The most profound diﬀerence is that waves do not display have
anything analogous to the normal forces between objects that come
in contact. Two wave patterns can therefore overlap in the same
region of space, as shown in ﬁgure b. Where the two waves coincide,
they add together. For instance, suppose that at a certain location
in at a certain moment in time, each wave would have had a crest
3 cm above the normal water level. The waves combine at this
point to make a 6cm crest. We use negative numbers to represent
depressions in the water. If both waves would have had a troughs
measuring 3 cm, then they combine to make an extradeep 6 cm
trough. A +3 cm crest and a 3 cm trough result in a height of zero,
i.e., the waves momentarily cancel each other out at that point.
This additive rule is referred to as the principle of superposition,
“superposition” being merely a fancy word for “adding.”
Superposition can occur not just with sinusoidal waves like the
ones in the ﬁgure above but with waves of any shape. The ﬁgures
on the following page show superposition of wave pulses. A pulse is
simply a wave of very short duration. These pulses consist only of
a single hump or trough. If you hit a clothesline sharply, you will
observe pulses heading oﬀ in both directions. This is analogous to
Section 3.1 Wave Motion 49
the way ripples spread out in all directions when you make a distur
bance at one point on water. The same occurs when the hammer
on a piano comes up and hits a string.
Experiments to date have not shown any deviation from the
principle of superposition in the case of light waves. For other types
of waves, it is typically a very good approximation for lowenergy
waves.
Discussion Question
A In ﬁgure c/3, the ﬁfth frame shows the spring just about perfectly
ﬂat. If the two pulses have essentially canceled each other out perfectly,
then why does the motion pick up again? Why doesn’t the spring just stay
ﬂat?
c / These pictures show the motion of wave pulses along a spring. To make a pulse, one end of the
spring was shaken by hand. Movies were ﬁlmed, and a series of frame chosen to show the motion. 1. A pulse
travels to the left. 2. Superposition of two colliding positive pulses. 3. Superposition of two colliding pulses, one
positive and one negative.
50 Chapter 3 Free Waves
e / As the wave pulse goes
by, the ribbon tied to the spring
is not carried along. The motion
of the wave pattern is to the
right, but the medium (spring) is
moving up and down, not to the
right.
d / As the wave pattern passes the rubber duck, the duck stays
put. The water isn’t moving forward with the wave.
2. The medium is not transported with the wave.
Figure d shows a series of water waves before it has reached a
rubber duck (left), having just passed the duck (middle) and having
progressed about a meter beyond the duck (right). The duck bobs
around its initial position, but is not carried along with the wave.
This shows that the water itself does not ﬂow outward with the
wave. If it did, we could empty one end of a swimming pool simply
by kicking up waves! We must distinguish between the motion of
the medium (water in this case) and the motion of the wave pattern
through the medium. The medium vibrates; the wave progresses
through space.
selfcheck A
In ﬁgure e, you can detect the sidetoside motion of the spring because
the spring appears blurry. At a certain instant, represented by a single
photo, how would you describe the motion of the different parts of the
spring? Other than the ﬂat parts, do any parts of the spring have zero
velocity? Answer, p. 101
A worm example 1
The worm in the ﬁgure is moving to the right. The wave pattern,
a pulse consisting of a compressed area of its body, moves to
the left. In other words, the motion of the wave pattern is in the
opposite direction compared to the motion of the medium.
Section 3.1 Wave Motion 51
f / Example 2. The surfer is
dragging his hand in the water.
g / Example 3: a breaking
wave.
h / Example 4. The boat has
run up against a limit on its speed
because it can’t climb over its
own wave. Dolphins get around
the problem by leaping out of the
water.
Surﬁng example 2
The incorrect belief that the medium moves with the wave is often
reinforced by garbled secondhand knowledge of surﬁng. Anyone
who has actually surfed knows that the front of the board pushes
the water to the sides, creating a wake — the surfer can even
drag his hand through the water, as in in ﬁgure f. If the water was
moving along with the wave and the surfer, this wouldn’t happen.
The surfer is carried forward because forward is downhill, not be
cause of any forward ﬂow of the water. If the water was ﬂowing
forward, then a person ﬂoating in the water up to her neck would
be carried along just as quickly as someone on a surfboard. In
fact, it is even possible to surf down the back side of a wave, al
though the ride wouldn’t last very long because the surfer and the
wave would quickly part company.
3. A wave’s velocity depends on the medium.
A material object can move with any velocity, and can be sped
up or slowed down by a force that increases or decreases its kinetic
energy. Not so with waves. The magnitude of a wave’s velocity
depends on the properties of the medium (and perhaps also on the
shape of the wave, for certain types of waves). Sound waves travel
at about 340 m/s in air, 1000 m/s in helium. If you kick up water
waves in a pool, you will ﬁnd that kicking harder makes waves that
are taller (and therefore carry more energy), not faster. The sound
waves from an exploding stick of dynamite carry a lot of energy,
but are no faster than any other waves. Thus although both waves
and physical objects carry energy as they move through space, the
energy of the wave relates to its amplitude, not to its speed.
In the following section we will give an example of the physi
cal relationship between the wave speed and the properties of the
medium.
Breaking waves example 3
The velocity of water waves increases with depth. The crest of a
wave travels faster than the trough, and this can cause the wave
to break.
Once a wave is created, the only reason its speed will change is
if it enters a diﬀerent medium or if the properties of the medium
change. It is not so surprising that a change in medium can slow
down a wave, but the reverse can also happen. A sound wave trav
eling through a helium balloon will slow down when it emerges into
the air, but if it enters another balloon it will speed back up again!
Similarly, water waves travel more quickly over deeper water, so a
wave will slow down as it passes over an underwater ridge, but speed
52 Chapter 3 Free Waves
i / Circular and linear wave
patterns.
j / Plane and spherical wave
patterns.
up again as it emerges into deeper water.
Hull speed example 4
The speeds of most boats, and of some surfaceswimming ani
mals, are limited by the fact that they make a wave due to their
motion through the water. The boat in ﬁgure h is going at the
same speed as its own waves, and can’t go any faster. No mat
ter how hard the boat pushes against the water, it can’t make
the wave move ahead faster and get out of the way. The wave’s
speed depends only on the medium. Adding energy to the wave
doesn’t speed it up, it just increases its amplitude.
A water wave, unlike many other types of wave, has a speed that
depends on its shape: a broader wave moves faster. The shape
of the wave made by a boat tends to mold itself to the shape of
the boat’s hull, so a boat with a longer hull makes a broader wave
that moves faster. The maximum speed of a boat whose speed is
limited by this effect is therefore closely related to the length of its
hull, and the maximum speed is called the hull speed. Sailboats
designed for racing are not just long and skinny to make them
more streamlined — they are also long so that their hull speeds
will be high.
Wave patterns
If the magnitude of a wave’s velocity vector is preordained, what
about its direction? Waves spread out in all directions from every
point on the disturbance that created them. If the disturbance is
small, we may consider it as a single point, and in the case of water
waves the resulting wave pattern is the familiar circular ripple, i/1.
If, on the other hand, we lay a pole on the surface of the water
and wiggle it up and down, we create a linear wave pattern, i/2.
For a threedimensional wave such as a sound wave, the analogous
patterns would be spherical waves and plane waves, j.
Inﬁnitely many patterns are possible, but linear or plane waves
are often the simplest to analyze, because the velocity vector is in
the same direction no matter what part of the wave we look at. Since
all the velocity vectors are parallel to one another, the problem is
eﬀectively onedimensional. Throughout this chapter and the next,
we will restrict ourselves mainly to wave motion in one dimension,
while not hesitating to broaden our horizons when it can be done
without too much complication.
Section 3.1 Wave Motion 53
k / Hitting a key on a piano
causes a hammer to come up
from underneath and hit a string
(actually a set of three strings).
The result is a pair of pulses
moving away from the point of
impact.
l / A string is struck with a
hammer, 1, and two pulses ﬂy off,
2.
m / A continuous string can
be modeled as a series of
discrete masses connected by
springs.
Discussion Questions
A [see above]
B Sketch two positive wave pulses on a string that are overlapping but
not right on top of each other, and draw their superposition. Do the same
for a positive pulse running into a negative pulse.
C A traveling wave pulse is moving to the right on a string. Sketch the
velocity vectors of the various parts of the string. Now do the same for a
pulse moving to the left.
D In a spherical sound wave spreading out from a point, how would
the energy of the wave fall off with distance?
3.2 Waves on a String
So far you have learned some counterintuitive things about the be
havior of waves, but intuition can be trained. The ﬁrst half of this
section aims to build your intuition by investigating a simple, one
dimensional type of wave: a wave on a string. If you have ever
stretched a string between the bottoms of two openmouthed cans
to talk to a friend, you were putting this type of wave to work.
Stringed instruments are another good example. Although we usu
ally think of a piano wire simply as vibrating, the hammer actually
strikes it quickly and makes a dent in it, which then ripples out in
both directions. Since this chapter is about free waves, not bounded
ones, we pretend that our string is inﬁnitely long.
After the qualitative discussion, we will use simple approxima
tions to investigate the speed of a wave pulse on a string. This quick
and dirty treatment is then followed by a rigorous attack using the
methods of calculus, which may be skipped by the student who has
not studied calculus. How far you penetrate in this section is up to
you, and depends on your mathematical selfconﬁdence. If you skip
the later parts and proceed to the next section, you should never
theless be aware of the important result that the speed at which a
pulse moves does not depend on the size or shape of the pulse. This
is a fact that is true for many other types of waves.
Intuitive ideas
Consider a string that has been struck, l/1, resulting in the cre
ation of two wave pulses, 2, one traveling to the left and one to the
right. This is analogous to the way ripples spread out in all direc
tions from a splash in water, but on a onedimensional string, “all
directions” becomes “both directions.”
We can gain insight by modeling the string as a series of masses
connected by springs. (In the actual string the mass and the springi
ness are both contributed by the molecules themselves.) If we look
at various microscopic portions of the string, there will be some ar
eas that are ﬂat, m/1, some that are sloping but not curved, 2, and
some that are curved, 3 and 4. In example 1 it is clear that both the
54 Chapter 3 Free Waves
n / A triangular pulse spreads out.
forces on the central mass cancel out, so it will not accelerate. The
same is true of 2, however. Only in curved regions such as 3 and 4
is an acceleration produced. In these examples, the vector sum of
the two forces acting on the central mass is not zero. The impor
tant concept is that curvature makes force: the curved areas of a
wave tend to experience forces resulting in an acceleration toward
the mouth of the curve. Note, however, that an uncurved portion
of the string need not remain motionless. It may move at constant
velocity to either side.
Approximate treatment
We now carry out an approximate treatment of the speed at
which two pulses will spread out from an initial indentation on a
string. For simplicity, we imagine a hammer blow that creates a tri
angular dent, n/1. We will estimate the amount of time, t, required
until each of the pulses has traveled a distance equal to the width
of the pulse itself. The velocity of the pulses is then ±w/t.
As always, the velocity of a wave depends on the properties of
the medium, in this case the string. The properties of the string can
be summarized by two variables: the tension, T, and the mass per
unit length, µ (Greek letter mu).
If we consider the part of the string encompassed by the initial
dent as a single object, then this object has a mass of approxi
mately µw (mass/length × length = mass). (Here, and throughout
the derivation, we assume that h is much less than w, so that we can
ignore the fact that this segment of the string has a length slightly
greater than w.) Although the downward acceleration of this seg
ment of the string will be neither constant over time nor uniform
across the string, we will pretend that it is constant for the sake of
our simple estimate. Roughly speaking, the time interval between
n/1 and 2 is the amount of time required for the initial dent to accel
erate from rest and reach its normal, ﬂattened position. Of course
the tip of the triangle has a longer distance to travel than the edges,
but again we ignore the complications and simply assume that the
segment as a whole must travel a distance h. Indeed, it might seem
surprising that the triangle would so neatly spring back to a per
fectly ﬂat shape. It is an experimental fact that it does, but our
analysis is too crude to address such details.
The string is kinked, i.e., tightly curved, at the edges of the
triangle, so it is here that there will be large forces that do not
cancel out to zero. There are two forces acting on the triangular
hump, one of magnitude T acting down and to the right, and one
of the same magnitude acting down and to the left. If the angle
of the sloping sides is θ, then the total force on the segment equals
2T sin θ. Dividing the triangle into two right triangles, we see that
sin θ equals h divided by the length of one of the sloping sides. Since
h is much less than w, the length of the sloping side is essentially
Section 3.2 Waves on a String 55
the same as w/2, so we have sin θ = h/w, and F = 4Th/w. The
acceleration of the segment (actually the acceleration of its center
of mass) is
a = F/m
= 4Th/µw
2
.
The time required to move a distance h under constant acceleration
a is found by solving h =
1
2
at
2
to yield
t =
2h
a
= w
µ
2T
.
Our ﬁnal result for the velocity of the pulses is
v =
w
t
=
2T
µ
.
The remarkable feature of this result is that the velocity of the
pulses does not depend at all on w or h, i.e., any triangular pulse
has the same speed. It is an experimental fact (and we will also
prove rigorously in the following subsection) that any pulse of any
kind, triangular or otherwise, travels along the string at the same
speed. Of course, after so many approximations we cannot expect
to have gotten all the numerical factors right. The correct result for
the velocity of the pulses is
v =
T
µ
.
The importance of the above derivation lies in the insight it
brings —that all pulses move with the same speed — rather than in
the details of the numerical result. The reason for our toohigh value
for the velocity is not hard to guess. It comes from the assumption
that the acceleration was constant, when actually the total force on
the segment would diminish as it ﬂattened out.
Rigorous derivation using calculus (optional)
After expending considerable eﬀort for an approximate solution,
we now display the power of calculus with a rigorous and completely
general treatment that is nevertheless much shorter and easier. Let
the ﬂat position of the string deﬁne the x axis, so that y measures
how far a point on the string is from equilibrium. The motion of
the string is characterized by y(x, t), a function of two variables.
Knowing that the force on any small segment of string depends
56 Chapter 3 Free Waves
on the curvature of the string in that area, and that the second
derivative is a measure of curvature, it is not surprising to ﬁnd that
the inﬁnitesimal force dF acting on an inﬁnitesimal segment dx is
given by
dF = T
d
2
y
dx
2
dx .
(This can be proved by vector addition of the two inﬁnitesimal forces
acting on either side.) The acceleration is then a = dF/dm, or,
substituting dm = µdx,
d
2
y
dt
2
=
T
µ
d
2
y
dx
2
.
The second derivative with respect to time is related to the second
derivative with respect to position. This is no more than a fancy
mathematical statement of the intuitive fact developed above, that
the string accelerates so as to ﬂatten out its curves.
Before even bothering to look for solutions to this equation, we
note that it already proves the principle of superposition, because
the derivative of a sum is the sum of the derivatives. Therefore the
sum of any two solutions will also be a solution.
Based on experiment, we expect that this equation will be sat
isﬁed by any function y(x, t) that describes a pulse or wave pattern
moving to the left or right at the correct speed v. In general, such
a function will be of the form y = f(x −vt) or y = f(x +vt), where
f is any function of one variable. Because of the chain rule, each
derivative with respect to time brings out a factor of ±v. Evaluating
the second derivatives on both sides of the equation gives
(±v)
2
f
=
T
µ
f
.
Squaring gets rid of the sign, and we ﬁnd that we have a valid
solution for any function f, provided that v is given by
v =
T
µ
.
3.3 Sound and Light Waves
Sound waves
The phenomenon of sound is easily found to have all the char
acteristics we expect from a wave phenomenon:
• Sound waves obey superposition. Sounds do not knock other
sounds out of the way when they collide, and we can hear more
than one sound at once if they both reach our ear simultane
ously.
Section 3.3 Sound and Light Waves 57
• The medium does not move with the sound. Even standing
in front of a titanic speaker playing earsplitting music, we do
not feel the slightest breeze.
• The velocity of sound depends on the medium. Sound travels
faster in helium than in air, and faster in water than in helium.
Putting more energy into the wave makes it more intense, not
faster. For example, you can easily detect an echo when you
clap your hands a short distance from a large, ﬂat wall, and
the delay of the echo is no shorter for a louder clap.
Although not all waves have a speed that is independent of the
shape of the wave, and this property therefore is irrelevant to our
collection of evidence that sound is a wave phenomenon, sound does
nevertheless have this property. For instance, the music in a large
concert hall or stadium may take on the order of a second to reach
someone seated in the nosebleed section, but we do not notice or
care, because the delay is the same for every sound. Bass, drums,
and vocals all head outward from the stage at 340 m/s, regardless
of their diﬀering wave shapes.
If sound has all the properties we expect from a wave, then what
type of wave is it? It must be a vibration of a physical medium such
as air, since the speed of sound is diﬀerent in diﬀerent media, such
as helium or water. Further evidence is that we don’t receive sound
signals that have come to our planet through outer space. The roars
and whooshes of Hollywood’s space ships are fun, but scientiﬁcally
wrong.
1
We can also tell that sound waves consist of compressions and
expansions, rather than sideways vibrations like the shimmying of a
snake. Only compressional vibrations would be able to cause your
eardrums to vibrate in and out. Even for a very loud sound, the
compression is extremely weak; the increase or decrease compared
to normal atmospheric pressure is no more than a part per million.
Our ears are apparently very sensitive receivers! Unlike a wave on a
string, which vibrates in the direction perpendicular to the direction
in which the wave pattern moves, a sound wave is a longitudinal
wave, i.e., one in which the vibration is forward and backward along
the direction of motion.
1
Outer space is not a perfect vacuum, so it is possible for sounds waves to
travel through it. However, if we want to create a sound wave, we typically do
it by creating vibrations of a physical object, such as the sounding board of a
guitar, the reed of a saxophone, or a speaker cone. The lower the density of the
surrounding medium, the less eﬃciently the energy can be converted into sound
and carried away. An isolated tuning fork, left to vibrate in interstellar space,
would dissipate the energy of its vibration into internal heat at a rate many
orders of magnitude greater than the rate of sound emission into the nearly
perfect vacuum around it.
58 Chapter 3 Free Waves
Light waves
Entirely similar observations lead us to believe that light is a
wave, although the concept of light as a wave had a long and tortu
ous history. It is interesting to note that Isaac Newton very inﬂuen
tially advocated a contrary idea about light. The belief that matter
was made of atoms was stylish at the time among radical thinkers
(although there was no experimental evidence for their existence),
and it seemed logical to Newton that light as well should be made of
tiny particles, which he called corpuscles (Latin for “small objects”).
Newton’s triumphs in the science of mechanics, i.e., the study of
matter, brought him such great prestige that nobody bothered to
question his incorrect theory of light for 150 years. One persua
sive proof that light is a wave is that according to Newton’s theory,
two intersecting beams of light should experience at least some dis
ruption because of collisions between their corpuscles. Even if the
corpuscles were extremely small, and collisions therefore very infre
quent, at least some dimming should have been measurable. In fact,
very delicate experiments have shown that there is no dimming.
The wave theory of light was entirely successful up until the 20th
century, when it was discovered that not all the phenomena of light
could be explained with a pure wave theory. It is now believed that
both light and matter are made out of tiny chunks which have both
wave and particle properties. For now, we will content ourselves
with the wave theory of light, which is capable of explaining a great
many things, from cameras to rainbows.
If light is a wave, what is waving? What is the medium that
wiggles when a light wave goes by? It isn’t air. A vacuum is impen
etrable to sound, but light from the stars travels happily through
zillions of miles of empty space. Light bulbs have no air inside them,
but that doesn’t prevent the light waves from leaving the ﬁlament.
For a long time, physicists assumed that there must be a mysterious
medium for light waves, and they called it the aether (not to be
confused with the chemical). Supposedly the aether existed every
where in space, and was immune to vacuum pumps. The details of
the story are more ﬁttingly reserved for later in this course, but the
end result was that a long series of experiments failed to detect any
evidence for the aether, and it is no longer believed to exist. Instead,
light can be explained as a wave pattern made up of electrical and
magnetic ﬁelds.
Section 3.3 Sound and Light Waves 59
o / A graph of pressure ver
sus time for a periodic sound
wave, the vowel “ah.”
p / A similar graph for a non
periodic wave, “sh.”
q / A strip chart recorder.
3.4 Periodic Waves
Period and frequency of a periodic wave
You choose a radio station by selecting a certain frequency. We
have already deﬁned period and frequency for vibrations, but what
do they signify in the case of a wave? We can recycle our previous
deﬁnition simply by stating it in terms of the vibrations that the
wave causes as it passes a receiving instrument at a certain point
in space. For a sound wave, this receiver could be an eardrum or
a microphone. If the vibrations of the eardrum repeat themselves
over and over, i.e., are periodic, then we describe the sound wave
that caused them as periodic. Likewise we can deﬁne the period
and frequency of a wave in terms of the period and frequency of
the vibrations it causes. As another example, a periodic water wave
would be one that caused a rubber duck to bob in a periodic manner
as they passed by it.
The period of a sound wave correlates with our sensory impres
sion of musical pitch. A high frequency (short period) is a high note.
The sounds that really deﬁne the musical notes of a song are only
the ones that are periodic. It is not possible to sing a nonperiodic
sound like “sh” with a deﬁnite pitch.
The frequency of a light wave corresponds to color. Violet is the
highfrequency end of the rainbow, red the lowfrequency end. A
color like brown that does not occur in a rainbow is not a periodic
light wave. Many phenomena that we do not normally think of as
light are actually just forms of light that are invisible because they
fall outside the range of frequencies our eyes can detect. Beyond the
red end of the visible rainbow, there are infrared and radio waves.
Past the violet end, we have ultraviolet, xrays, and gamma rays.
Graphs of waves as a function of position
Some waves, light sound waves, are easy to study by placing a
detector at a certain location in space and studying the motion as
a function of time. The result is a graph whose horizontal axis is
time. With a water wave, on the other hand, it is simpler just to
look at the wave directly. This visual snapshot amounts to a graph
of the height of the water wave as a function of position. Any wave
can be represented in either way.
An easy way to visualize this is in terms of a strip chart recorder,
an obsolescing device consisting of a pen that wiggles back and forth
as a roll of paper is fed under it. It can be used to record a per
son’s electrocardiogram, or seismic waves too small to be felt as a
noticeable earthquake but detectable by a seismometer. Taking the
seismometer as an example, the chart is essentially a record of the
ground’s wave motion as a function of time, but if the paper was set
to feed at the same velocity as the motion of an earthquake wave, it
would also be a fullscale representation of the proﬁle of the actual
60 Chapter 3 Free Waves
r / A water wave proﬁle cre
ated by a series of repeating
pulses.
wave pattern itself. Assuming, as is usually the case, that the wave
velocity is a constant number regardless of the wave’s shape, know
ing the wave motion as a function of time is equivalent to knowing
it as a function of position.
Wavelength
Any wave that is periodic will also display a repeating pattern
when graphed as a function of position. The distance spanned by
one repetition is referred to as one wavelength. The usual notation
for wavelength is λ, the Greek letter lambda. Wavelength is to space
as period is to time.
s / Wavelengths of linear and circular water waves.
Wave velocity related to frequency and wavelength
Suppose that we create a repetitive disturbance by kicking the
surface of a swimming pool. We are essentially making a series of
wave pulses. The wavelength is simply the distance a pulse is able to
travel before we make the next pulse. The distance between pulses
is λ, and the time between pulses is the period, T, so the speed of
the wave is the distance divided by the time,
v = λ/T.
This important and useful relationship is more commonly writ
ten in terms of the frequency,
v = fλ .
Section 3.4 Periodic Waves 61
u / A water wave traveling
into a region with a different
depth changes its wavelength.
Wavelength of radio waves example 5
The speed of light is 3.0 × 10
8
m/s. What is the wavelength of
the radio waves emitted by KKJZ, a station whose frequency is
88.1 MHz?
Solving for wavelength, we have
λ = v/f
= (3.0 ×10
8
m/s)/(88.1 ×10
6
s
−1
)
= 3.4 m
The size of a radio antenna is closely related to the wavelength of
the waves it is intended to receive. The match need not be exact
(since after all one antenna can receive more than one wave
length!), but the ordinary “whip” antenna such as a car’s is 1/4
of a wavelength. An antenna optimized to receive KKJZ’s signal
would have a length of 3.4 m/4 = 0.85 m.
t / Ultrasound, i.e., sound with fre
quencies higher than the range
of human hearing, was used to
make this image of a fetus. The
resolution of the image is re
lated to the wavelength, since
details smaller than about one
wavelength cannot be resolved.
High resolution therefore requires
a short wavelength, correspond
ing to a high frequency.
The equation v = fλ deﬁnes a ﬁxed relationship between any two
of the variables if the other is held ﬁxed. The speed of radio waves
in air is almost exactly the same for all wavelengths and frequencies
(it is exactly the same if they are in a vacuum), so there is a ﬁxed
relationship between their frequency and wavelength. Thus we can
say either “Are we on the same wavelength?” or “Are we on the
same frequency?”
A diﬀerent example is the behavior of a wave that travels from
a region where the medium has one set of properties to an area
where the medium behaves diﬀerently. The frequency is now ﬁxed,
62 Chapter 3 Free Waves
because otherwise the two portions of the wave would otherwise
get out of step, causing a kink or discontinuity at the boundary,
which would be unphysical. (A more careful argument is that a
kink or discontinuity would have inﬁnite curvature, and waves tend
to ﬂatten out their curvature. An inﬁnite curvature would ﬂatten
out inﬁnitely fast, i.e., it could never occur in the ﬁrst place.) Since
the frequency must stay the same, any change in the velocity that
results from the new medium must cause a change in wavelength.
The velocity of water waves depends on the depth of the water,
so based on λ = v/f, we see that water waves that move into a
region of diﬀerent depth must change their wavelength, as shown
in the ﬁgure on the left. This eﬀect can be observed when ocean
waves come up to the shore. If the deceleration of the wave pattern
is sudden enough, the tip of the wave can curl over, resulting in a
breaking wave.
A note on dispersive waves
The discussion of wave velocity given here is actually an oversimpliﬁ
cation for a wave whose velocity depends on its frequency and wave
length. Such a wave is called a dispersive wave. Nearly all the waves
we deal with in this course are nondispersive, but the issue becomes
important in book 6 of this series, where it is discussed in more detail in
optional section 4.2.
Sinusoidal waves
Sinusoidal waves are the most important special case of periodic
waves. In fact, many scientists and engineers would be uncomfort
able with deﬁning a waveform like the “ah” vowel sound as having
a deﬁnite frequency and wavelength, because they consider only
sine waves to be pure examples of a certain frequency and wave
lengths. Their bias is not unreasonable, since the French mathe
matician Fourier showed that any periodic wave with frequency f
can be constructed as a superposition of sine waves with frequencies
f, 2f, 3f, ... In this sense, sine waves are the basic, pure building
blocks of all waves. (Fourier’s result so surprised the mathematical
community of France that he was ridiculed the ﬁrst time he publicly
presented his theorem.)
However, what deﬁnition to use is a matter of utility. Our sense
of hearing perceives any two sounds having the same period as pos
sessing the same pitch, regardless of whether they are sine waves
or not. This is undoubtedly because our earbrain system evolved
to be able to interpret human speech and animal noises, which are
periodic but not sinusoidal. Our eyes, on the other hand, judge a
color as pure (belonging to the rainbow set of colors) only if it is a
sine wave.
Section 3.4 Periodic Waves 63
v / The pattern of waves made
by a point source moving to the
right across the water. Note
the shorter wavelength of the
forwardemitted waves and
the longer wavelength of the
backwardgoing ones.
Discussion Question
A Suppose we superimpose two sine waves with equal amplitudes
but slightly different frequencies, as shown in the ﬁgure. What will the
superposition look like? What would this sound like if they were sound
waves?
3.5 The Doppler Effect
Figure v shows the wave pattern made by the tip of a vibrating
rod which is moving across the water. If the rod had been vibrating
in one place, we would have seen the familiar pattern of concentric
circles, all centered on the same point. But since the source of
the waves is moving, the wavelength is shortened on one side and
lengthened on the other. This is known as the Doppler eﬀect.
Note that the velocity of the waves is a ﬁxed property of the
medium, so for example the forwardgoing waves do not get an extra
boost in speed as would a material object like a bullet being shot
forward from an airplane.
We can also infer a change in frequency. Since the velocity is
constant, the equation v = fλ tells us that the change in wave
length must be matched by an opposite change in frequency: higher
frequency for the waves emitted forward, and lower for the ones
emitted backward. The frequency Doppler eﬀect is the reason for
the familiar droppingpitch sound of a race car going by. As the car
approaches us, we hear a higher pitch, but after it passes us we hear
a frequency that is lower than normal.
The Doppler eﬀect will also occur if the observer is moving but
the source is stationary. For instance, an observer moving toward a
stationary source will perceive one crest of the wave, and will then be
surrounded by the next crest sooner than she otherwise would have,
because she has moved toward it and hastened her encounter with
it. Roughly speaking, the Doppler eﬀect depends only the relative
motion of the source and the observer, not on their absolute state
of motion (which is not a welldeﬁned notion in physics) or on their
velocity relative to the medium.
Restricting ourselves to the case of a moving source, and to waves
emitted either directly along or directly against the direction of mo
tion, we can easily calculate the wavelength, or equivalently the
frequency, of the Dopplershifted waves. Let v be the velocity of
the waves, and v
s
the velocity of the source. The wavelength of the
64 Chapter 3 Free Waves
w / Example 8. A Doppler
radar image of Hurricane Katrina,
in 2005.
forwardemitted waves is shortened by an amount v
s
T equal to the
distance traveled by the source over the course of one period. Using
the deﬁnition f = 1/T and the equation v = fλ, we ﬁnd for the
wavelength of the Dopplershifted wave the equation
λ
=
1 −
v
s
v
λ .
A similar equation can be used for the backwardemitted waves, but
with a plus sign rather than a minus sign.
Dopplershifted sound from a race car example 6
If a race car moves at a velocity of 50 m/s, and the velocity of
sound is 340 m/s, by what percentage are the wavelength and
frequency of its sound waves shifted for an observer lying along
its line of motion?
For an observer whom the car is approaching, we ﬁnd
1 −
v
s
v
= 0.85 ,
so the shift in wavelength is 15%. Since the frequency is inversely
proportional to the wavelength for a ﬁxed value of the speed of
sound, the frequency is shifted upward by
1/0.85 = 1.18,
i.e., a change of 18%. (For velocities that are small compared
to the wave velocities, the Doppler shifts of the wavelength and
frequency are about the same.)
Doppler shift of the light emitted by a race car example 7
What is the percent shift in the wavelength of the light waves
emitted by a race car’s headlights?
Looking up the speed of light in the front of the book, v = 3.0 ×
10
8
m/s, we ﬁnd
1 −
v
s
v
= 0.99999983 ,
i.e., the percentage shift is only 0.000017%.
The second example shows that under ordinary earthbound cir
cumstances, Doppler shifts of light are negligible because ordinary
things go so much slower than the speed of light. It’s a diﬀerent
story, however, when it comes to stars and galaxies, and this leads
us to a story that has profound implications for our understanding
of the origin of the universe.
Doppler radar example 8
The ﬁrst use of radar was by Britain during World War II: anten
nas on the ground sent radio waves up into the sky, and detected
the echoes when the waves were reﬂected from German planes.
Section 3.5 The Doppler Effect 65
x / The galaxy M51. Under
high magniﬁcation, the milky
clouds reveal themselves to be
composed of trillions of stars.
Later, air forces wanted to mount radar antennas on airplanes,
but then there was a problem, because if an airplane wanted to
detect another airplane at a lower altitude, it would have to aim
its radio waves downward, and then it would get echoes from
the ground. The solution was the invention of Doppler radar, in
which echoes from the ground were differentiated from echoes
from other aircraft according to their Doppler shifts. A similar
technology is used by meteorologists to map out rainclouds with
out being swamped by reﬂections from the ground, trees, and
buildings.
Optional topic: Doppler shifts of light
If Doppler shifts depend only on the relative motion of the source and
receiver, then there is no way for a person moving with the source and
another person moving with the receiver to determine who is moving
and who isn’t. Either can blame the Doppler shift entirely on the other’s
motion and claim to be at rest herself. This is entirely in agreement with
the principle stated originally by Galileo that all motion is relative.
On the other hand, a careful analysis of the Doppler shifts of water
or sound waves shows that it is only approximately true, at low speeds,
that the shifts just depend on the relative motion of the source and ob
server. For instance, it is possible for a jet plane to keep up with its own
sound waves, so that the sound waves appear to stand still to the pilot
of the plane. The pilot then knows she is moving at exactly the speed
of sound. The reason this doesn’t disprove the relativity of motion is
that the pilot is not really determining her absolute motion but rather her
motion relative to the air, which is the medium of the sound waves.
Einstein realized that this solved the problem for sound or water
waves, but would not salvage the principle of relative motion in the case
of light waves, since light is not a vibration of any physical medium such
as water or air. Beginning by imagining what a beam of light would
look like to a person riding a motorcycle alongside it, Einstein even
tually came up with a radical new way of describing the universe, in
which space and time are distorted as measured by observers in differ
ent states of motion. As a consequence of this Theory of Relativity, he
showed that light waves would have Doppler shifts that would exactly,
not just approximately, depend only on the relative motion of the source
and receiver.
The Big Bang
As soon as astronomers began looking at the sky through tele
scopes, they began noticing certain objects that looked like clouds
in deep space. The fact that they looked the same night after night
meant that they were beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Not know
ing what they really were, but wanting to sound oﬃcial, they called
them “nebulae,” a Latin word meaning “clouds” but sounding more
impressive. In the early 20th century, astronomers realized that al
though some really were clouds of gas (e.g., the middle “star” of
Orion’s sword, which is visibly fuzzy even to the naked eye when
conditions are good), others were what we now call galaxies: virtual
island universes consisting of trillions of stars (for example the An
66 Chapter 3 Free Waves
y / How do astronomers know
what mixture of wavelengths a
star emitted originally, so that
they can tell how much the
Doppler shift was? This image
(obtained by the author with
equipment costing about $5, and
no telescope) shows the mixture
of colors emitted by the star
Sirius. (If you have the book in
black and white, blue is on the left
and red on the right.) The star
appears white or bluishwhite to
the eye, but any light looks white
if it contains roughly an equal
mixture of the rainbow colors,
i.e., of all the pure sinusoidal
waves with wavelengths lying in
the visible range. Note the black
“gap teeth.” These are the ﬁn
gerprint of hydrogen in the outer
atmosphere of Sirius. These
wavelengths are selectively ab
sorbed by hydrogen. Sirius is in
our own galaxy, but similar stars
in other galaxies would have
the whole pattern shifted toward
the red end, indicating they are
moving away from us.
z / The telescope at Mount
Wilson used by Hubble.
dromeda Galaxy, which is visible as a fuzzy patch through binoc
ulars). Three hundred years after Galileo had resolved the Milky
Way into individual stars through his telescope, astronomers real
ized that the universe is made of galaxies of stars, and the Milky
Way is simply the visible part of the ﬂat disk of our own galaxy,
seen from inside.
This opened up the scientiﬁc study of cosmology, the structure
and history of the universe as a whole, a ﬁeld that had not been
seriously attacked since the days of Newton. Newton had realized
that if gravity was always attractive, never repulsive, the universe
would have a tendency to collapse. His solution to the problem was
to posit a universe that was inﬁnite and uniformly populated with
matter, so that it would have no geometrical center. The gravita
tional forces in such a universe would always tend to cancel out by
symmetry, so there would be no collapse. By the 20th century, the
belief in an unchanging and inﬁnite universe had become conven
tional wisdom in science, partly as a reaction against the time that
had been wasted trying to ﬁnd explanations of ancient geological
phenomena based on catastrophes suggested by biblical events like
Noah’s ﬂood.
In the 1920’s astronomer Edwin Hubble began studying the
Doppler shifts of the light emitted by galaxies. A former college
football player with a serious nicotine addiction, Hubble did not
set out to change our image of the beginning of the universe. His
autobiography seldom even mentions the cosmological discovery for
which he is now remembered. When astronomers began to study the
Doppler shifts of galaxies, they expected that each galaxy’s direction
and velocity of motion would be essentially random. Some would be
approaching us, and their light would therefore be Dopplershifted
to the blue end of the spectrum, while an equal number would be
expected to have red shifts. What Hubble discovered instead was
that except for a few very nearby ones, all the galaxies had red
shifts, indicating that they were receding from us at a hefty frac
tion of the speed of light. Not only that, but the ones farther away
were receding more quickly. The speeds were directly proportional
to their distance from us.
Did this mean that the earth (or at least our galaxy) was the
center of the universe? No, because Doppler shifts of light only
depend on the relative motion of the source and the observer. If
we see a distant galaxy moving away from us at 10% of the speed
of light, we can be assured that the astronomers who live in that
galaxy will see ours receding from them at the same speed in the
opposite direction. The whole universe can be envisioned as a rising
loaf of raisin bread. As the bread expands, there is more and more
space between the raisins. The farther apart two raisins are, the
greater the speed with which they move apart.
Section 3.5 The Doppler Effect 67
aa / Shock waves from by
the X15 rocket plane, ﬂying at
3.5 times the speed of sound.
ab / This ﬁghter jet has just
accelerated past the speed of
sound. The sudden decom
pression of the air causes water
droplets to condense, forming a
cloud.
Extrapolating backward in time using the known laws of physics,
the universe must have been denser and denser at earlier and earlier
times. At some point, it must have been extremely dense and hot,
and we can even detect the radiation from this early ﬁreball, in the
form of microwave radiation that permeates space. The phrase Big
Bang was originally coined by the doubters of the theory to make it
sound ridiculous, but it stuck, and today essentially all astronomers
accept the Big Bang theory based on the very direct evidence of the
red shifts and the cosmic microwave background radiation.
What the Big Bang is not
Finally it should be noted what the Big Bang theory is not. It is
not an explanation of why the universe exists. Such questions belong
to the realm of religion, not science. Science can ﬁnd ever simpler
and ever more fundamental explanations for a variety of phenom
ena, but ultimately science takes the universe as it is according to
observations.
Furthermore, there is an unfortunate tendency, even among many
scientists, to speak of the Big Bang theory as a description of the
very ﬁrst event in the universe, which caused everything after it.
Although it is true that time may have had a beginning (Einstein’s
theory of general relativity admits such a possibility), the methods
of science can only work within a certain range of conditions such
as temperature and density. Beyond a temperature of about 10
9
degrees C, the random thermal motion of subatomic particles be
comes so rapid that its velocity is comparable to the speed of light.
Early enough in the history of the universe, when these temperatures
existed, Newtonian physics becomes less accurate, and we must de
scribe nature using the more general description given by Einstein’s
theory of relativity, which encompasses Newtonian physics as a spe
cial case. At even higher temperatures, beyond about 10
33
degrees,
physicists know that Einstein’s theory as well begins to fall apart,
but we don’t know how to construct the even more general theory
of nature that would work at those temperatures. No matter how
far physics progresses, we will never be able to describe nature at
inﬁnitely high temperatures, since there is a limit to the temper
atures we can explore by experiment and observation in order to
guide us to the right theory. We are conﬁdent that we understand
the basic physics involved in the evolution of the universe starting a
few minutes after the Big Bang, and we may be able to push back to
milliseconds or microseconds after it, but we cannot use the methods
of science to deal with the beginning of time itself.
Discussion Questions
A If an airplane travels at exactly the speed of sound, what would be
the wavelength of the forwardemitted part of the sound waves it emitted?
How should this be interpreted, and what would actually happen? What
happens if it’s going faster than the speed of sound? Can you use this to
explain what you see in ﬁgures aa and ab?
68 Chapter 3 Free Waves
B If bullets go slower than the speed of sound, why can a supersonic
ﬁghter plane catch up to its own sound, but not to its own bullets?
C If someone inside a plane is talking to you, should their speech be
Doppler shifted?
Section 3.5 The Doppler Effect 69
Summary
Selected Vocabulary
superposition . . the adding together of waves that overlap with
each other
medium . . . . . a physical substance whose vibrations consti
tute a wave
wavelength . . . . the distance in space between repetitions of a
periodic wave
Doppler eﬀect . . the change in a wave’s frequency and wave
length due to the motion of the source or the
observer or both
Notation
λ . . . . . . . . . . wavelength (Greek letter lambda)
Summary
Wave motion diﬀers in three important ways from the motion of
material objects:
(1) Waves obey the principle of superposition. When two waves
collide, they simply add together.
(2) The medium is not transported along with the wave. The
motion of any given point in the medium is a vibration about its
equilibrium location, not a steady forward motion.
(3) The velocity of a wave depends on the medium, not on the
amount of energy in the wave. (For some types of waves, notably
water waves, the velocity may also depend on the shape of the wave.)
Sound waves consist of increases and decreases (typically very
small ones) in the density of the air. Light is a wave, but it is a
vibration of electric and magnetic ﬁelds, not of any physical medium.
Light can travel through a vacuum.
A periodic wave is one that creates a periodic motion in a receiver
as it passes it. Such a wave has a welldeﬁned period and frequency,
and it will also have a wavelength, which is the distance in space
between repetitions of the wave pattern. The velocity, frequency,
and wavelength of a periodic wave are related by the equation
v = fλ.
A wave emitted by a moving source will be shifted in wavelength
and frequency. The shifted wavelength is given by the equation
λ
=
1 −
v
s
v
λ ,
where v is the velocity of the waves and v
s
is the velocity of the
source, taken to be positive or negative so as to produce a Doppler
lengthened wavelength if the source is receding and a Doppler
shortened one if it approaches. A similar shift occurs if the observer
70 Chapter 3 Free Waves
is moving, and in general the Doppler shift depends approximately
only on the relative motion of the source and observer if their ve
locities are both small compared to the waves’ velocity. (This is not
just approximately but exactly true for light waves, and this fact
forms the basis of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.)
Summary 71
Problem 2.
Problem 3.
Problems
Key
√
A computerized answer check is available online.
A problem that requires calculus.
A diﬃcult problem.
1 The following is a graph of the height of a water wave as a
function of position, at a certain moment in time.
Trace this graph onto another piece of paper, and then sketch below
it the corresponding graphs that would be obtained if
(a) the amplitude and frequency were doubled while the velocity
remained the same;
(b) the frequency and velocity were both doubled while the ampli
tude remained unchanged;
(c) the wavelength and amplitude were reduced by a factor of three
while the velocity was doubled.
[Problem by Arnold Arons.]
2 (a) The graph shows the height of a water wave pulse as a
function of position. Draw a graph of height as a function of time
for a speciﬁc point on the water. Assume the pulse is traveling to
the right.
(b) Repeat part a, but assume the pulse is traveling to the left.
(c) Now assume the original graph was of height as a function of
time, and draw a graph of height as a function of position, assuming
the pulse is traveling to the right.
(d) Repeat part c, but assume the pulse is traveling to the left.
[Problem by Arnold Arons.]
3 The ﬁgure shows one wavelength of a steady sinusoidal wave
traveling to the right along a string. Deﬁne a coordinate system
in which the positive x axis points to the right and the positive y
axis up, such that the ﬂattened string would have y = 0. Copy
the ﬁgure, and label with y = 0 all the appropriate parts of the
string. Similarly, label with v = 0 all parts of the string whose
velocities are zero, and with a = 0 all parts whose accelerations
are zero. There is more than one point whose velocity is of the
greatest magnitude. Pick one of these, and indicate the direction of
its velocity vector. Do the same for a point having the maximum
magnitude of acceleration.
72 Chapter 3 Free Waves
[Problem by Arnold Arons.]
4 Find an equation for the relationship between the Doppler
shifted frequency of a wave and the frequency of the original wave,
for the case of a stationary observer and a source moving directly
toward or away from the observer.
5 Suggest a quantitative experiment to look for any deviation
from the principle of superposition for surface waves in water. Make
it simple and practical.
6 The musical note middle C has a frequency of 262 Hz. What
are its period and wavelength?
√
7 Singing that is oﬀpitch by more than about 1% sounds bad.
How fast would a singer have to be moving relative to a the rest of
a band to make this much of a change in pitch due to the Doppler
eﬀect?
8 In section 3.2, we saw that the speed of waves on a string
depends on the ratio of T/µ, i.e., the speed of the wave is greater if
the string is under more tension, and less if it has more inertia. This
is true in general: the speed of a mechanical wave always depends
on the medium’s inertia in relation to the restoring force (tension,
stiﬀness, resistance to compression,...) Based on these ideas, explain
why the speed of sound in a gas depends strongly on temperature,
while the speed of sounds in liquids and solids does not.
Problems 73
74 Chapter 3 Free Waves
A crosssectional view of a human body, showing the vocal tract.
Chapter 4
Bounded Waves
Speech is what separates humans most decisively from animals. No
other species can master syntax, and even though chimpanzees can
learn a vocabulary of hand signs, there is an unmistakable diﬀerence
between a human infant and a baby chimp: starting from birth, the
human experiments with the production of complex speech sounds.
Since speech sounds are instinctive for us, we seldom think about
them consciously. How do we do control sound waves so skillfully?
Mostly we do it by changing the shape of a connected set of hollow
cavities in our chest, throat, and head. Somehow by moving the
boundaries of this space in and out, we can produce all the vowel
sounds. Up until now, we have been studying only those properties
of waves that can be understood as if they existed in an inﬁnite,
open space. In this chapter we address what happens when a wave is
conﬁned within a certain space, or when a wave pattern encounters
the boundary between two diﬀerent media, as when a light wave
moving through air encounters a glass windowpane.
75
a / A diver photographed this ﬁsh,
and its reﬂection, from underwa
ter. The reﬂection is the one on
top, and is formed by light waves
that went up to the surface of
the water, but were then reﬂected
back down into the water.
4.1 Reﬂection, Transmission, and Absorption
Reﬂection and transmission
Sound waves can echo back from a cliﬀ, and light waves are
reﬂected from the surface of a pond. We use the word reﬂection,
normally applied only to light waves in ordinary speech, to describe
any such case of a wave rebounding from a barrier. Figure b shows
a circular water wave being reﬂected from a straight wall. In this
chapter, we will concentrate mainly on reﬂection of waves that move
in one dimension, as in ﬁgure c.
Wave reﬂection does not surprise us. After all, a material object
such as a rubber ball would bounce back in the same way. But waves
are not objects, and there are some surprises in store.
First, only part of the wave is usually reﬂected. Looking out
through a window, we see light waves that passed through it, but a
person standing outside would also be able to see her reﬂection in
the glass. A light wave that strikes the glass is partly reﬂected and
partly transmitted (passed) by the glass. The energy of the original
wave is split between the two. This is diﬀerent from the behavior of
the rubber ball, which must go one way or the other, not both.
Second, consider what you see if you are swimming underwater
and you look up at the surface. You see your own reﬂection. This
is utterly counterintuitive, since we would expect the light waves to
burst forth to freedom in the wideopen air. A material projectile
shot up toward the surface would never rebound from the waterair
76 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves
b / Circular water waves are
reﬂected from a boundary on the
left.
c / A wave on a spring, ini
tially traveling to the left, is
reﬂected from the ﬁxed end.
boundary! Figure a shows a similar example.
What is it about the diﬀerence between two media that causes
waves to be partly reﬂected at the boundary between them? Is
it their density? Their chemical composition? Ultimately all that
matters is the speed of the wave in the two media. A wave is partially
reﬂected and partially transmitted at the boundary between media in
which it has diﬀerent speeds. For example, the speed of light waves
in window glass is about 30% less than in air, which explains why
windows always make reﬂections. Figures d/1 and 2 show examples
of wave pulses being reﬂected at the boundary between two coil
springs of diﬀerent weights, in which the wave speed is diﬀerent.
Reﬂections such as b and c, where a wave encounters a massive
ﬁxed object, can usually be understood on the same basis as cases
like d/1 and 2 later in his section, where two media meet. Example
c, for instance, is like a more extreme version of example d/1. If the
heavy coil spring in d/1 was made heavier and heavier, it would end
up acting like the ﬁxed wall to which the light spring in c has been
attached.
selfcheck A
In ﬁgure c, the reﬂected pulse is upsidedown, but its depth is just as
big as the original pulse’s height. How does the energy of the reﬂected
pulse compare with that of the original? Answer, p. 101
Fish have internal ears. example 1
Why don’t ﬁsh have earholes? The speed of sound waves in
a ﬁsh’s body is not much different from their speed in water, so
sound waves are not strongly reﬂected from a ﬁsh’s skin. They
pass right through its body, so ﬁsh can have internal ears.
Whale songs traveling long distances example 2
Sound waves travel at drastically different speeds through rock,
water, and air. Whale songs are thus strongly reﬂected at both
the bottom and the surface. The sound waves can travel hun
dreds of miles, bouncing repeatedly between the bottom and the
surface, and still be detectable. Sadly, noise pollution from ships
has nearly shut down this cetacean version of the internet.
Longdistance radio communication. example 3
Radio communication can occur between stations on opposite
sides of the planet. The mechanism is similar to the one ex
plained in example 2, but the three media involved are the earth,
the atmosphere, and the ionosphere.
selfcheck B
Sonar is a method for ships and submarines to detect each other by
producing sound waves and listening for echoes. What properties would
an underwater object have to have in order to be invisible to sonar?
Answer, p. 101
The use of the word “reﬂection” naturally brings to mind the cre
Section 4.1 Reﬂection, Transmission, and Absorption 77
ation of an image by a mirror, but this might be confusing, because
we do not normally refer to “reﬂection” when we look at surfaces
that are not shiny. Nevertheless, reﬂection is how we see the surfaces
of all objects, not just polished ones. When we look at a sidewalk,
for example, we are actually seeing the reﬂecting of the sun from
the concrete. The reason we don’t see an image of the sun at our
feet is simply that the rough surface blurs the image so drastically.
d / 1. A wave in the lighter spring, where the wave speed is greater,
travels to the left and is then partly reﬂected and partly transmitted at the
boundary with the heavier coil spring, which has a lower wave speed.
The reﬂection is inverted. 2. A wave moving to the right in the heavier
spring is partly reﬂected at the boundary with the lighter spring. The
reﬂection is uninverted.
78 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves
e / 1. An uninverted reﬂec
tion. The reﬂected pulse is
reversed front to back, but is
not upsidedown. 2. An inverted
reﬂection. The reﬂected pulse is
reversed both front to back and
top to bottom.
f / A pulse traveling through
a highly absorptive medium.
Inverted and uninverted reﬂections
Notice how the pulse reﬂected back to the right in example d/1
comes back upsidedown, whereas the one reﬂected back to the left
in 2 returns in its original upright form. This is true for other waves
as well. In general, there are two possible types of reﬂections, a
reﬂection back into a faster medium and a reﬂection back into a
slower medium. One type will always be an inverting reﬂection and
one noninverting.
It’s important to realize that when we discuss inverted and un
inverted reﬂections on a string, we are talking about whether the
wave is ﬂipped across the direction of motion (i.e., upsidedown in
these drawings). The reﬂected pulse will always be reversed front
to back, as shown in ﬁgure e. This is because it is traveling in the
other direction. The leading edge of the pulse is what gets reﬂected
ﬁrst, so it is still ahead when it starts back to the left — it’s just
that “ahead” is now in the opposite direction.
Absorption
So far we have tacitly assumed that wave energy remains as wave
energy, and is not converted to any other form. If this was true, then
the world would become more and more full of sound waves, which
could never escape into the vacuum of outer space. In reality, any
mechanical wave consists of a traveling pattern of vibrations of some
physical medium, and vibrations of matter always produce heat, as
when you bend a coathangar back and forth and it becomes hot.
We can thus expect that in mechanical waves such as water waves,
sound waves, or waves on a string, the wave energy will gradually
be converted into heat. This is referred to as absorption.
The wave suﬀers a decrease in amplitude, as shown in ﬁgure f.
The decrease in amplitude amounts to the same fractional change
for each unit of distance covered. For example, if a wave decreases
from amplitude 2 to amplitude 1 over a distance of 1 meter, then
after traveling another meter it will have an amplitude of 1/2. That
is, the reduction in amplitude is exponential. This can be proven
as follows. By the principle of superposition, we know that a wave
of amplitude 2 must behave like the superposition of two identical
waves of amplitude 1. If a single amplitude1 wave would die down to
amplitude 1/2 over a certain distance, then two amplitude1 waves
superposed on top of one another to make amplitude 1+1 = 2 must
die down to amplitude 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 over the same distance.
selfcheck C
As a wave undergoes absorption, it loses energy. Does this mean that
it slows down? Answer, p. 101
In many cases, this frictional heating eﬀect is quite weak. Sound
waves in air, for instance, dissipate into heat extremely slowly, and
the sound of church music in a cathedral may reverberate for as much
Section 4.1 Reﬂection, Transmission, and Absorption 79
g / Xrays are light waves with a
very high frequency. They are
absorbed strongly by bones, but
weakly by ﬂesh.
as 3 or 4 seconds before it becomes inaudible. During this time it
has traveled over a kilometer! Even this very gradual dissipation
of energy occurs mostly as heating of the church’s walls and by the
leaking of sound to the outside (where it will eventually end up as
heat). Under the right conditions (humid air and low frequency), a
sound wave in a straight pipe could theoretically travel hundreds of
kilometers before being noticeably attenuated.
In general, the absorption of mechanical waves depends a great
deal on the chemical composition and microscopic structure of the
medium. Ripples on the surface of antifreeze, for instance, die out
extremely rapidly compared to ripples on water. For sound waves
and surface waves in liquids and gases, what matters is the viscosity
of the substance, i.e., whether it ﬂows easily like water or mercury
or more sluggishly like molasses or antifreeze. This explains why
our intuitive expectation of strong absorption of sound in water is
incorrect. Water is a very weak absorber of sound (viz. whale songs
and sonar), and our incorrect intuition arises from focusing on the
wrong property of the substance: water’s high density, which is
irrelevant, rather than its low viscosity, which is what matters.
Light is an interesting case, since although it can travel through
matter, it is not itself a vibration of any material substance. Thus
we can look at the star Sirius, 10
14
km away from us, and be as
sured that none of its light was absorbed in the vacuum of outer
space during its 9year journey to us. The Hubble Space Telescope
routinely observes light that has been on its way to us since the
early history of the universe, billions of years ago. Of course the
energy of light can be dissipated if it does pass through matter (and
the light from distant galaxies is often absorbed if there happen to
be clouds of gas or dust in between).
Soundprooﬁng example 4
Typical amateur musicians setting out to soundproof their garages
tend to think that they should simply cover the walls with the
densest possible substance. In fact, sound is not absorbed very
strongly even by passing through several inches of wood. A better
strategy for soundprooﬁng is to create a sandwich of alternating
layers of materials in which the speed of sound is very different,
to encourage reﬂection.
The classic design is alternating layers of ﬁberglass and plywood.
The speed of sound in plywood is very high, due to its stiffness,
while its speed in ﬁberglass is essentially the same as its speed
in air. Both materials are fairly good sound absorbers, but sound
waves passing through a few inches of them are still not going
to be absorbed sufﬁciently. The point of combining them is that
a sound wave that tries to get out will be strongly reﬂected at
each of the ﬁberglassplywood boundaries, and will bounce back
and forth many times like a ping pong ball. Due to all the back
80 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves
h / A tympanometer, example
7.
andforth motion, the sound may end up traveling a total distance
equal to ten times the actual thickness of the soundprooﬁng be
fore it escapes. This is the equivalent of having ten times the
thickness of soundabsorbing material.
The swim bladder example 5
The swim bladder of a ﬁsh, which was ﬁrst discussed in home
work problem 2 in chapter 2, is often located right next to the
ﬁsh’s ear. As discussed in example 1 on page 77, the ﬁsh’s body
is nearly transparent to sound, so it’s actually difﬁcult to get any
of the sound wave energy to deposit itself in the ﬁsh so that the
ﬁsh can hear it! The physics here is almost exactly the same as
the physics of example 4 above, with the gasﬁlled swim bladder
playing the role of the lowdensity material.
Radio transmission example 6
A radio transmitting station, such as a commercial station or an
amateur “ham” radio station, must have a length of wire or cable
connecting the ampliﬁer to the antenna. The cable and the an
tenna act as two different media for radio waves, and there will
therefore be partial reﬂection of the waves as they come from the
cable to the antenna. If the waves bounce back and forth many
times between the ampliﬁer and the antenna, a great deal of their
energy will be absorbed. There are two ways to attack the prob
lem. One possibility is to design the antenna so that the speed of
the waves in it is as close as possible to the speed of the waves
in the cable; this minimizes the amount of reﬂection. The other
method is to connect the ampliﬁer to the antenna using a type
of wire or cable that does not strongly absorb the waves. Partial
reﬂection then becomes irrelevant, since all the wave energy will
eventually exit through the antenna.
The tympanogram example 7
The tympanogram is a medical procedure used to diagnose prob
lems with the middle ear.
The middle ear is a chamber, normally ﬁlled with air, lying be
tween the eardrum (tympanic membrane) and the inner ear. It
contains a tiny set of bones that act as a system of levers to
amplify the motion of the eardrum and transmit it to the inner
ear. The air pressure in the inner ear is normally equalized via
the Eustachian tube, which connects to the throat; when you feel
uncomfortable pressure in your ear while ﬂying, it’s because the
pressure has not yet equalized. Ear infections or allergies can
cause the middle ear to become ﬁlled with ﬂuid, and the Eu
stachian tube can also become blocked, so that the pressure in
the inner ear cannot become equalized.
The tympanometer has a probe that is inserted into the ear, with
several holes. One hole is used to send a 226 Hz sound wave into
the ear canal. The ear has evolved so as to transmit a maximum
Section 4.1 Reﬂection, Transmission, and Absorption 81
amount of wave motion to the inner ear. Any change in its physical
properties will change its behavior from its normal optimum, so
that more sound energy than normal is reﬂected back. A second
hole in the probe senses the reﬂected wave. If the reﬂection is
stronger than normal, there is probably something wrong with the
inner ear.
The full physical analysis is fairly complex. The middle ear has
some of the characteristics of a mass oscillating on a spring, but
it also has some of the characteristics of a medium that carries
waves. Crudely, we could imagine that an infected, ﬂuidﬁlled
middle ear would act as a medium that differed greatly from the
air in the outer ear, causing a large amount of reﬂection.
Equally crudely, we could forget about the wave ideas and think
of the middle ear purely as as a mass on a spring. We expect
resonant behavior, and there is in fact such a resonance, which
is typically at a frequency of about 600 Hz in adults, so the 226
Hz frequency emitted by the probe is actually quite far from res
onance. If the mechanisms of the middle ear are jammed and
cannot vibrate, then it is not possible for energy of the incoming
sound wave to be turned into energy of vibration in the middle
ear, and therefore by conservation of energy we would expect all
of the sound to be reﬂected.
Sometimes the middle ear’s mechanisms can get jammed be
cause of abnormally high or low pressure, because the Eustach
ian tube is blocked and cannot equalize the pressure with the
outside environment. Diagnosing such a condition is the purpose
of the third hole in the probe, which is used to vary the pressure
in the ear canal. The amount of reﬂection is measured as a func
tion of this pressure. If the reﬂection is minimized for some value
of the pressure that is different than atmospheric pressure, it indi
cates that that is the value of the pressure in the middle ear; when
the pressures are equalized, the forces on the eardrum cancel
out, and it can relax to its normal position, unjamming the middle
ear’s mechanisms.
Discussion Question
A A sound wave that underwent a pressureinverting reﬂection would
have its compressions converted to expansions and vice versa. How
would its energy and frequency compare with those of the original sound?
Would it sound any different? What happens if you swap the two wires
where they connect to a stereo speaker, resulting in waves that vibrate in
the opposite way?
82 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves
i / 1. A change in frequency
without a change in wavelength
would produce a discontinuity in
the wave. 2. A simple change in
wavelength without a reﬂection
would result in a sharp kink in the
wave.
4.2 Quantitative Treatment of Reﬂection
In this optional section we analyze the reasons why reﬂections occur
at a speedchanging boundary, predict quantitatively the intensities
of reﬂection and transmission, and discuss how to predict for any
type of wave which reﬂections are inverting and which are nonin
verting. The gory details are likely to be of interest mainly to stu
dents with concentrations in the physical sciences, but all readers
are encouraged at least to skim the ﬁrst two subsections for physical
insight.
Why reﬂection occurs
To understand the fundamental reasons for what does occur at
the boundary between media, let’s ﬁrst discuss what doesn’t happen.
For the sake of concreteness, consider a sinusoidal wave on a string.
If the wave progresses from a heavier portion of the string, in which
its velocity is low, to a lighterweight part, in which it is high, then
the equation v = fλ tells us that it must change its frequency, or
its wavelength, or both. If only the frequency changed, then the
parts of the wave in the two diﬀerent portions of the string would
quickly get out of step with each other, producing a discontinuity in
the wave, i/1. This is unphysical, so we know that the wavelength
must change while the frequency remains constant, 2.
But there is still something unphysical about ﬁgure 2. The sud
den change in the shape of the wave has resulted in a sharp kink
at the boundary. This can’t really happen, because the medium
tends to accelerate in such a way as to eliminate curvature. A sharp
kink corresponds to an inﬁnite curvature at one point, which would
produce an inﬁnite acceleration, which would not be consistent with
the smooth pattern of wave motion envisioned in ﬁgure 2. Waves
can have kinks, but not stationary kinks.
We conclude that without positing partial reﬂection of the wave,
we cannot simultaneously satisfy the requirements of (1) continuity
of the wave, and (2) no sudden changes in the slope of the wave.
(The student who has studied calculus will recognize this as amount
ing to an assumption that both the wave and its derivative are con
tinuous functions.)
Does this amount to a proof that reﬂection occurs? Not quite.
We have only proven that certain types of wave motion are not
valid solutions. In the following subsection, we prove that a valid
solution can always be found in which a reﬂection occurs. Now in
physics, we normally assume (but seldom prove formally) that the
equations of motion have a unique solution, since otherwise a given
set of initial conditions could lead to diﬀerent behavior later on,
but the Newtonian universe is supposed to be deterministic. Since
the solution must be unique, and we derive below a valid solution
involving a reﬂected pulse, we will have ended up with what amounts
Section 4.2 Quantitative Treatment of Reﬂection 83
j / A pulse being partially re
ﬂected and partially transmitted
at the boundary between two
strings in which the speed of
waves is different. The top
drawing shows the pulse heading
to the right, toward the heavier
string. For clarity, all but the ﬁrst
and last drawings are schematic.
Once the reﬂected pulse begins
to emerge from the boundary,
it adds together with the trailing
parts of the incident pulse. Their
sum, shown as a wider line, is
what is actually observed.
to a proof of reﬂection.
Intensity of reﬂection
We will now show, in the case of waves on a string, that it is pos
sible to satisfy the physical requirements given above by construct
ing a reﬂected wave, and as a bonus this will produce an equation
for the proportions of reﬂection and transmission and a prediction
as to which conditions will lead to inverted and which to uninverted
reﬂection. We assume only that the principle of superposition holds,
which is a good approximations for waves on a string of suﬃciently
small amplitude.
Let the unknown amplitudes of the reﬂected and transmitted
waves be R and T, respectively. An inverted reﬂection would be
represented by a negative value of R. We can without loss of gen
erality take the incident (original) wave to have unit amplitude.
Superposition tells us that if, for instance, the incident wave had
double this amplitude, we could immediately ﬁnd a corresponding
solution simply by doubling R and T.
Just to the left of the boundary, the height of the wave is given
by the height 1 of the incident wave, plus the height R of the part
of the reﬂected wave that has just been created and begun heading
back, for a total height of 1+R. On the right side immediately next
to the boundary, the transmitted wave has a height T. To avoid a
discontinuity, we must have
1 +R = T .
Next we turn to the requirement of equal slopes on both sides of
the boundary. Let the slope of the incoming wave be s immediately
to the left of the junction. If the wave was 100% reﬂected, and
without inversion, then the slope of the reﬂected wave would be −s,
since the wave has been reversed in direction. In general, the slope
of the reﬂected wave equals −sR, and the slopes of the superposed
waves on the left side add up to s − sR. On the right, the slope
depends on the amplitude, T, but is also changed by the stretching
or compression of the wave due to the change in speed. If, for
example, the wave speed is twice as great on the right side, then
the slope is cut in half by this eﬀect. The slope on the right is
therefore s(v
1
/v
2
)T, where v
1
is the velocity in the original medium
and v
2
the velocity in the new medium. Equality of slopes gives
s −sR = s(v
1
/v
2
)T, or
1 −R =
v
1
v
2
T .
Solving the two equations for the unknowns R and T gives
R =
v
2
−v
1
v
2
+v
1
and T =
2v
2
v
2
+v
1
.
84 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves
k / A disturbance in freeway
trafﬁc.
l / In the mirror image, the
areas of positive excess trafﬁc
density are still positive, but
the velocities of the cars have
all been reversed, so areas of
positive excess velocity have
been turned into negative ones.
The ﬁrst equation shows that there is no reﬂection unless the two
wave speeds are diﬀerent, and that the reﬂection is inverted in re
ﬂection back into a fast medium.
The energies of the transmitted and reﬂected wavers always add
up to the same as the energy of the original wave. There is never
any abrupt loss (or gain) in energy when a wave crosses a bound
ary. (Conversion of wave energy to heat occurs for many types of
waves, but it occurs throughout the medium.) The equation for
T, surprisingly, allows the amplitude of the transmitted wave to be
greater than 1, i.e., greater than that of the incident wave. This
does not violate conservation of energy, because this occurs when
the second string is less massive, reducing its kinetic energy, and the
transmitted pulse is broader and less strongly curved, which lessens
its potential energy.
Inverted and uninverted reﬂections in general
For waves on a string, reﬂections back into a faster medium are
inverted, while those back into a slower medium are uninverted. Is
this true for all types of waves? The rather subtle answer is that it
depends on what property of the wave you are discussing.
Let’s start by considering wave disturbances of freeway traﬃc.
Anyone who has driven frequently on crowded freeways has observed
the phenomenon in which one driver taps the brakes, starting a chain
reaction that travels backward down the freeway as each person in
turn exercises caution in order to avoid rearending anyone. The
reason why this type of wave is relevant is that it gives a simple,
easily visualized example of our description of a wave depends on
which aspect of the wave we have in mind. In steadily ﬂowing free
way traﬃc, both the density of cars and their velocity are constant
all along the road. Since there is no disturbance in this pattern of
constant velocity and density, we say that there is no wave. Now if
a wave is touched oﬀ by a person tapping the brakes, we can either
describe it as a region of high density or as a region of decreasing
velocity.
The freeway traﬃc wave is in fact a good model of a sound wave,
and a sound wave can likewise be described either by the density
(or pressure) of the air or by its speed. Likewise many other types
of waves can be described by either of two functions, one of which
is often the derivative of the other with respect to position.
Now let’s consider reﬂections. If we observe the freeway wave in
a mirror, the highdensity area will still appear high in density, but
velocity in the opposite direction will now be described by a neg
ative number. A person observing the mirror image will draw the
same density graph, but the velocity graph will be ﬂipped across the
x axis, and its original region of negative slope will now have posi
tive slope. Although I don’t know any physical situation that would
Section 4.2 Quantitative Treatment of Reﬂection 85
m / Seen from this angle, the
optical coating on the lenses of
these binoculars appears purple
and green. (The color varies
depending on the angle from
which the coating is viewed, and
the angle varies across the faces
of the lenses because of their
curvature.)
correspond to the reﬂection of a traﬃc wave, we can immediately ap
ply the same reasoning to sound waves, which often do get reﬂected,
and determine that a reﬂection can either be densityinverting and
velocitynoninverting or densitynoninverting and velocityinverting.
This same type of situation will occur over and over as one en
counters new types of waves, and to apply the analogy we need
only determine which quantities, like velocity, become negated in a
mirror image and which, like density, stay the same.
A light wave, for instance consists of a traveling pattern of elec
tric and magnetic ﬁelds. All you need to know in order to analyze the
reﬂection of light waves is how electric and magnetic ﬁelds behave
under reﬂection; you don’t need to know any of the detailed physics
of electricity and magnetism. An electric ﬁeld can be detected, for
example, by the way one’s hair stands on end. The direction of
the hair indicates the direction of the electric ﬁeld. In a mirror im
age, the hair points the other way, so the electric ﬁeld is apparently
reversed in a mirror image. The behavior of magnetic ﬁelds, how
ever, is a little tricky. The magnetic properties of a bar magnet,
for instance, are caused by the aligned rotation of the outermost
orbiting electrons of the atoms. In a mirror image, the direction of
rotation is reversed, say from clockwise to counterclockwise, and so
the magnetic ﬁeld is reversed twice: once simply because the whole
picture is ﬂipped and once because of the reversed rotation of the
electrons. In other words, magnetic ﬁelds do not reverse themselves
in a mirror image. We can thus predict that there will be two pos
sible types of reﬂection of light waves. In one, the electric ﬁeld is
inverted and the magnetic ﬁeld uninverted. In the other, the electric
ﬁeld is uninverted and the magnetic ﬁeld inverted.
4.3 Interference Effects
If you look at the front of a pair of highquality binoculars, you
will notice a greenishblue coating on the lenses. This is advertised
as a coating to prevent reﬂection. Now reﬂection is clearly undesir
able — we want the light to go in the binoculars — but so far I’ve
described reﬂection as an unalterable fact of nature, depending only
on the properties of the two wave media. The coating can’t change
the speed of light in air or in glass, so how can it work? The key is
that the coating itself is a wave medium. In other words, we have
a threelayer sandwich of materials: air, coating, and glass. We will
analyze the way the coating works, not because optical coatings are
an important part of your education but because it provides a good
example of the general phenomenon of wave interference eﬀects.
There are two diﬀerent interfaces between media: an aircoating
boundary and a coatingglass boundary. Partial reﬂection and par
tial transmission will occur at each boundary. For ease of visual
ization let’s start by considering an equivalent system consisting of
86 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves
n / A rope consisting of three
sections, the middle one being
lighter.
o / Two reﬂections, are su
perimposed. One reﬂection is
inverted.
p / A soap bubble displays
interference effects.
three dissimilar pieces of string tied together, and a wave pattern
consisting initially of a single pulse. Figure n/1 shows the incident
pulse moving through the heavy rope, in which its velocity is low.
When it encounters the lighterweight rope in the middle, a faster
medium, it is partially reﬂected and partially transmitted. (The
transmitted pulse is bigger, but nevertheless has only part of the
original energy.) The pulse transmitted by the ﬁrst interface is then
partially reﬂected and partially transmitted by the second bound
ary, 3. In ﬁgure 4, two pulses are on the way back out to the left,
and a single pulse is heading oﬀ to the right. (There is still a weak
pulse caught between the two boundaries, and this will rattle back
and forth, rapidly getting too weak to detect as it leaks energy to
the outside with each partial reﬂection.)
Note how, of the two reﬂected pulses in 4, one is inverted and
one uninverted. One underwent reﬂection at the ﬁrst boundary (a
reﬂection back into a slower medium is uninverted), but the other
was reﬂected at the second boundary (reﬂection back into a faster
medium is inverted).
Now let’s imagine what would have happened if the incoming
wave pattern had been a long sinusoidal wave train instead of a
single pulse. The ﬁrst two waves to reemerge on the left could be
in phase, o/1, or out of phase, 2, or anywhere in between. The
amount of lag between them depends entirely on the width of the
middle segment of string. If we choose the width of the middle string
segment correctly, then we can arrange for destructive interference
to occur, 2, with cancellation resulting in a very weak reﬂected wave.
This whole analysis applies directly to our original case of optical
coatings. Visible light from most sources does consist of a stream of
short sinusoidal wavetrains such as the ones drawn above. The only
real diﬀerence between the wavesonarope example and the case of
an optical coating is that the ﬁrst and third media are air and glass,
in which light does not have the same speed. However, the general
result is the same as long as the air and the glass have lightwave
speeds that either both greater than the coating’s or both less than
the coating’s.
The business of optical coatings turns out to be a very arcane
one, with a plethora of trade secrets and “black magic” techniques
handed down from master to apprentice. Nevertheless, the ideas
you have learned about waves in general are suﬃcient to allow you
to come to some deﬁnite conclusions without any further technical
knowledge. The selfcheck and discussion questions will direct you
along these lines of thought.
The example of an optical coating was typical of a wide variety
of wave interference eﬀects. With a little guidance, you are now
ready to ﬁgure out for yourself other examples such as the rainbow
pattern made by a compact disc, a layer of oil on a puddle, or a
Section 4.3 Interference Effects 87
soap bubble.
selfcheck D
1. Color corresponds to wavelength of light waves. Is it possible to
choose a thickness for an optical coating that will produce destructive
interference for all colors of light?
2. How can you explain the rainbow colors on the soap bubble in ﬁgure
p? Answer, p. 101
Discussion Questions
A Is it possible to get complete destructive interference in an optical
coating, at least for light of one speciﬁc wavelength?
B Sunlight consists of sinusoidal wavetrains containing on the order
of a hundred cycles backtoback, for a length of something like a tenth of
a millimeter. What happens if you try to make an optical coating thicker
than this?
C Suppose you take two microscope slides and lay one on top of the
other so that one of its edges is resting on the corresponding edge of the
bottom one. If you insert a sliver of paper or a hair at the opposite end,
a wedgeshaped layer of air will exist in the middle, with a thickness that
changes gradually from one end to the other. What would you expect to
see if the slides were illuminated from above by light of a single color?
How would this change if you gradually lifted the lower edge of the top
slide until the two slides were ﬁnally parallel?
D An observation like the one described in discussion question C was
used by Newton as evidence against the wave theory of light! If Newton
didn’t know about inverting and noninverting reﬂections, what would have
seemed inexplicable to him about the region where the air layer had zero
or nearly zero thickness?
88 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves
q / A model of a guitar string.
r / The motion of a pulse on
the string.
s / A tricky way to double the
frequency.
4.4 Waves Bounded on Both Sides
In the examples discussed in section 4.3, it was theoretically true
that a pulse would be trapped permanently in the middle medium,
but that pulse was not central to our discussion, and in any case it
was weakening severely with each partial reﬂection. Now consider
a guitar string. At its ends it is tied to the body of the instrument
itself, and since the body is very massive, the behavior of the waves
when they reach the end of the string can be understood in the same
way as if the actual guitar string was attached on the ends to strings
that were extremely massive, q. Reﬂections are most intense when
the two media are very dissimilar. Because the wave speed in the
body is so radically diﬀerent from the speed in the string, we should
expect nearly 100% reﬂection.
Although this may seem like a rather bizarre physical model of
the actual guitar string, it already tells us something interesting
about the behavior of a guitar that we would not otherwise have
understood. The body, far from being a passive frame for attaching
the strings to, is actually the exit path for the wave energy in the
strings. With every reﬂection, the wave pattern on the string loses
a tiny fraction of its energy, which is then conducted through the
body and out into the air. (The string has too little crosssection to
make sound waves eﬃciently by itself.) By changing the properties
of the body, moreover, we should expect to have an eﬀect on the
manner in which sound escapes from the instrument. This is clearly
demonstrated by the electric guitar, which has an extremely massive,
solid wooden body. Here the dissimilarity between the two wave
media is even more pronounced, with the result that wave energy
leaks out of the string even more slowly. This is why an electric
guitar with no electric pickup can hardly be heard at all, and it is
also the reason why notes on an electric guitar can be sustained for
longer than notes on an acoustic guitar.
If we initially create a disturbance on a guitar string, how will
the reﬂections behave? In reality, the ﬁnger or pick will give the
string a triangular shape before letting it go, and we may think of
this triangular shape as a very broad “dent” in the string which
will spread out in both directions. For simplicity, however, let’s just
imagine a wave pattern that initially consists of a single, narrow
pulse traveling up the neck, r/1. After reﬂection from the top end,
it is inverted, 3. Now something interesting happens: ﬁgure 5 is
identical to ﬁgure 1. After two reﬂections, the pulse has been in
verted twice and has changed direction twice. It is now back where
it started. The motion is periodic. This is why a guitar produces
sounds that have a deﬁnite sensation of pitch.
selfcheck E
Notice that from r/1 to r/5, the pulse has passed by every point on the
string exactly twice. This means that the total distance it has traveled
Section 4.4 Waves Bounded on Both Sides 89
t / Using the sum of four sine
waves to approximate the trian
gular initial shape of a plucked
guitar string.
equals 2L, where L is the length of the string. Given this fact, what are
the period and frequency of the sound it produces, expressed in terms
of L and v, the velocity of the wave? Answer, p. 102
Note that if the waves on the string obey the principle of super
position, then the velocity must be independent of amplitude, and
the guitar will produce the same pitch regardless of whether it is
played loudly or softly. In reality, waves on a string obey the prin
ciple of superposition approximately, but not exactly. The guitar,
like just about any acoustic instrument, is a little out of tune when
played loudly. (The eﬀect is more pronounced for wind instruments
than for strings, but wind players are able to compensate for it.)
Now there is only one hole in our reasoning. Suppose we some
how arrange to have an initial setup consisting of two identical pulses
heading toward each other, as in ﬁgure s. They will pass through
each other, undergo a single inverting reﬂection, and come back to
a conﬁguration in which their positions have been exactly inter
changed. This means that the period of vibration is half as long.
The frequency is twice as high.
This might seem like a purely academic possibility, since nobody
actually plays the guitar with two picks at once! But in fact it is an
example of a very general fact about waves that are bounded on both
sides. A mathematical theorem called Fourier’s theorem states that
any wave can be created by superposing sine waves. Figure t shows
how even by using only four sine waves with appropriately chosen
amplitudes, we can arrive at a sum which is a decent approximation
to the realistic triangular shape of a guitar string being plucked.
The onehump wave, in which half a wavelength ﬁts on the string,
will behave like the single pulse we originally discussed. We call
its frequency f
o
. The twohump wave, with one whole wavelength,
is very much like the twopulse example. For the reasons discussed
above, its frequency is 2f
o
. Similarly, the threehump and fourhump
waves have frequencies of 3f
o
and 4f
o
.
Theoretically we would need to add together inﬁnitely many
such wave patterns to describe the initial triangular shape of the
string exactly, although the amplitudes required for the very high
frequency parts would be very small, and an excellent approximation
could be achieved with as few as ten waves.
We thus arrive at the following very general conclusion. When
ever a wave pattern exists in a medium bounded on both sides by
media in which the wave speed is very diﬀerent, the motion can be
broken down into the motion of a (theoretically inﬁnite) series of sine
waves, with frequencies f
o
, 2f
o
, 3f
o
, ... Except for some technical
details, to be discussed below, this analysis applies to a vast range of
soundproducing systems, including the air column within the hu
man vocal tract. Because sounds composed of this kind of pattern
of frequencies are so common, our earbrain system has evolved so
90 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves
u / Graphs of loudness ver
sus frequency for the vowel “ah,”
sung as three different musical
notes. G is consonant with D,
since every overtone of G that is
close to an overtone of D (*) is at
exactly the same frequency. G
and C# are dissonant together,
since some of the overtones of G
(x) are close to, but not right on
top of, those of C#.
as to perceive them as a single, fused sensation of tone.
Musical applications
Many musicians claim to be able to pick out by ear several of the
frequencies 2f
o
, 3f
o
, ..., called overtones or harmonics of the funda
mental f
o
, but they are kidding themselves. In reality, the overtone
series has two important roles in music, neither of which depends
on this ﬁctitious ability to “hear out” the individual overtones.
First, the relative strengths of the overtones is an important
part of the personality of a sound, called its timbre (rhymes with
“amber”). The characteristic tone of the brass instruments, for ex
ample, is a sound that starts out with a very strong harmonic series
extending up to very high frequencies, but whose higher harmonics
die down drastically as the attack changes to the sustained portion
of the note.
Second, although the ear cannot separate the individual harmon
ics of a single musical tone, it is very sensitive to clashes between
the overtones of notes played simultaneously, i.e., in harmony. We
tend to perceive a combination of notes as being dissonant if they
have overtones that are close but not the same. Roughly speaking,
strong overtones whose frequencies diﬀer by more than 1% and less
than 10% cause the notes to sound dissonant. It is important to
realize that the term “dissonance” is not a negative one in music.
No matter how long you search the radio dial, you will never hear
more than three seconds of music without at least one dissonant
combination of notes. Dissonance is a necessary ingredient in the
creation of a musical cycle of tension and release. Musically knowl
edgeable people don’t use the word “dissonant” as a criticism of
music, although dissonance can be used in a clumsy way, or without
providing any contrast between dissonance and consonance.
Standing waves
Figure v shows sinusoidal wave patterns made by shaking a rope.
I used to enjoy doing this at the bank with the pens on chains, back
in the days when people actually went to the bank. You might think
that I and the person in the photos had to practice for a long time
in order to get such nice sine waves. In fact, a sine wave is the only
shape that can create this kind of wave pattern, called a standing
wave, which simply vibrates back and forth in one place without
moving. The sine wave just creates itself automatically when you
ﬁnd the right frequency, because no other shape is possible.
If you think about it, it’s not even obvious that sine waves should
be able to do this trick. After all, waves are supposed to travel at a
set speed, aren’t they? The speed isn’t supposed to be zero! Well, we
can actually think of a standing wave as a superposition of a moving
Section 4.4 Waves Bounded on Both Sides 91
w / Sine waves add to make
sine waves. Other functions don’t
have this property.
x / Example 8.
v / Standing waves on a spring.
sine wave with its own reﬂection, which is moving the opposite way.
Sine waves have the unique mathematical property, w, that the sum
of sine waves of equal wavelength is simply a new sine wave with
the same wavelength. As the two sine waves go back and forth, they
always cancel perfectly at the ends, and their sum appears to stand
still.
Standing wave patterns are rather important, since atoms are
really standingwave patterns of electron waves. You are a standing
wave!
Harmonics on string instruments example 8
Figure x shows a violist playing what string players refer to as a
natural harmonic. The term “harmonic” is used here in a some
what different sense than in physics. The musician’s pinkie is
pressing very lightly against the string — not hard enough to
make it touch the ﬁngerboard — at a point precisely at the center
of the string’s length. As shown in the diagram, this allows the
string to vibrate at frequencies 2f
o
, 4f
o
, 6f
o
, . . ., which have sta
tionary points at the center of the string, but not at the odd mul
tiples f
o
, 3f
o
, . . .. Since all the overtones are multiples of 2f
o
, the
ear perceives 2f
o
as the basic frequency of the note. In musical
terms, doubling the frequency corresponds to raising the pitch by
an octave. The technique can be used in order to make it easier
to play high notes in rapid passages, or for its own sake, because
of the change in timbre.
92 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves
y / Surprisingly, sound waves
undergo partial reﬂection at the
open ends of tubes as well as
closed ones.
z / Graphs of excess density
versus position for the lowest
frequency standing waves of
three types of air columns. Points
on the axis have normal air
density.
Standingwave patterns of air columns
The air column inside a wind instrument behaves very much
like the waveonastring example we’ve been concentrating on so
far, the main diﬀerence being that we may have either inverting or
noninverting reﬂections at the ends.
Some organ pipes are closed at both ends. The speed of sound
is diﬀerent in metal than in air, so there is a strong reﬂection at
the closed ends, and we can have standing waves. These reﬂections
are both densitynoninverting, so we get symmetric standingwave
patterns, such as the one shown in ﬁgure z/1.
Figure y shows the sound waves in and around a bamboo Japanese
ﬂute called a shakuhachi, which is open at both ends of the air col
umn. We can only have a standing wave pattern if there are re
ﬂections at the ends, but that is very counterintuitive — why is
there any reﬂection at all, if the sound wave is free to emerge into
open space, and there is no change in medium? Recall the reason
why we got reﬂections at a change in medium: because the wave
length changes, so the wave has to readjust itself from one pattern
to another, and the only way it can do that without developing a
kink is if there is a reﬂection. Something similar is happening here.
The only diﬀerence is that the wave is adjusting from being a plane
wave to being a spherical wave. The reﬂections at the open ends
are densityinverting, z/2, so the wave pattern is pinched oﬀ at the
ends. Comparing panels 1 and 2 of the ﬁgure, we see that although
the wave pattens are diﬀerent, in both cases the wavelength is the
same: in the lowestfrequency standing wave, half a wavelength ﬁts
inside the tube. Thus, it isn’t necessary to memorize which type of
reﬂection is inverting and which is inverting. It’s only necessary to
know that the tubes are symmetric.
Finally, we can have an asymmetric tube: closed at one end
and open at the other. A common example is the pan pipes, aa,
which are closed at the bottom and open at the top. The standing
wave with the lowest frequency is therefore one in which 1/4 of a
wavelength ﬁts along the length of the tube, as shown in ﬁgure z/3.
Sometimes an instrument’s physical appearance can be mislead
ing. A concert ﬂute, ab, is closed at the mouth end and open at
the other, so we would expect it to behave like an asymmetric air
column; in reality, it behaves like a symmetric air column open at
both ends, because the embouchure hole (the hole the player blows
over) acts like an open end. The clarinet and the saxophone look
similar, having a mouthpiece and reed at one end and an open end
at the other, but they act diﬀerent. In fact the clarinet’s air col
umn has patterns of vibration that are asymmetric, the saxophone
symmetric. The discrepancy comes from the diﬀerence between the
conical tube of the sax and the cylindrical tube of the clarinet. The
adjustment of the wave pattern from a plane wave to a spherical
Section 4.4 Waves Bounded on Both Sides 93
aa / A pan pipe is an asym
metric air column, open at the top
and closed at the bottom.
ab / A concert ﬂute looks like
an asymmetric air column, open
at the mouth end and closed at
the other. However, its patterns of
vibration are symmetric, because
the embouchure hole acts like an
open end.
wave is more gradual at the ﬂaring bell of the saxophone.
selfcheck F
Draw a graph of pressure versus position for the ﬁrst overtone of the air
column in a tube open at one end and closed at the other. This will be
the nexttolongest possible wavelength that allows for a point of maxi
mum vibration at one end and a point of no vibration at the other. How
many times shorter will its wavelength be compared to the wavelength
of the lowestfrequency standing wave, shown in the ﬁgure? Based on
this, how many times greater will its frequency be? Answer, p. 102
94 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves
Summary
Selected Vocabulary
reﬂection . . . . . the bouncing back of part of a wave from a
boundary
transmission . . . the continuation of part of a wave through a
boundary
absorption . . . . the gradual conversion of wave energy into
heating of the medium
standing wave . . a wave pattern that stays in one place
Notation
λ . . . . . . . . . . wavelength (Greek letter lambda)
Summary
Whenever a wave encounters the boundary between two media
in which its speeds are diﬀerent, part of the wave is reﬂected and
part is transmitted. The reﬂection is always reversed fronttoback,
but may also be inverted in amplitude. Whether the reﬂection is
inverted depends on how the wave speeds in the two media compare,
e.g., a wave on a string is uninverted when it is reﬂected back into a
segment of string where its speed is lower. The greater the diﬀerence
in wave speed between the two media, the greater the fraction of
the wave energy that is reﬂected. Surprisingly, a wave in a dense
material like wood will be strongly reﬂected back into the wood at
a woodair boundary.
A onedimensional wave conﬁned by highly reﬂective boundaries
on two sides will display motion which is periodic. For example, if
both reﬂections are inverting, the wave will have a period equal
to twice the time required to traverse the region, or to that time
divided by an integer. An important special case is a sinusoidal
wave; in this case, the wave forms a stationary pattern composed of
a superposition of sine waves moving in opposite direction.
Summary 95
C 261.6 Hz
D 293.7
E 329.6
F 349.2
G 392.0
A 440.0
B 466.2
Problem 5.
Problems
Key
√
A computerized answer check is available online.
A problem that requires calculus.
A diﬃcult problem.
1 Light travels faster in warmer air. Use this fact to explain the
formation of a mirage appearing like the shiny surface of a pool of
water when there is a layer of hot air above a road. (For simplicity,
pretend that there is actually a sharp boundary between the hot
layer and the cooler layer above it.)
2 (a) Using the equations from optional section 4.2, compute
the amplitude of light that is reﬂected back into air at an airwater
interface, relative to the amplitude of the incident wave. The speeds
of light in air and water are 3.0×10
8
and 2.2×10
8
m/s, respectively.
(b) Find the energy of the reﬂected wave as a fraction of the incident
energy. [Hint: The answers to the two parts are not the same.]
√
3 A concert ﬂute produces its lowest note, at about 262 Hz,
when half of a wavelength ﬁts inside its tube. Compute the length
of the ﬂute. Answer, p. 102
4 (a) A good tenor saxophone player can play all of the fol
lowing notes without changing her ﬁngering, simply by altering the
tightness of her lips: E (150 Hz), E (300 Hz), B (450 Hz), and
E (600 Hz). How is this possible? (I’m not asking you to analyze
the coupling between the lips, the reed, the mouthpiece, and the air
column, which is very complicated.)
(b) Some saxophone players are known for their ability to use this
technique to play “freak notes,” i.e., notes above the normal range
of the instrument. Why isn’t it possible to play notes below the
normal range using this technique?
5 The table gives the frequencies of the notes that make up
the key of F major, starting from middle C and going up through
all seven notes. (a) Calculate the ﬁrst four or ﬁve harmonics of C
and G, and determine whether these two notes will be consonant or
dissonant. (b) Do the same for C and B. [Hint: Remember that
harmonics that diﬀer by about 110% cause dissonance.]
6 Brass and wind instruments go up in pitch as the musician
warms up. Suppose a particular trumpet’s frequency goes up by
1.2%. Let’s consider possible physical reasons for the change in
pitch. (a) Solids generally expand with increasing temperature, be
cause the stronger random motion of the atoms tends to bump them
apart. Brass expands by 1.88 ×10
−5
per degree C. Would this tend
to raise the pitch, or lower it? Estimate the size of the eﬀect in
comparison with the observed change in frequency. (b) The speed
of sound in a gas is proportional to the square root of the absolute
96 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves
temperature, where zero absolute temperature is 273 degrees C. As
in part a, analyze the size and direction of the eﬀect.
7 Your exhaled breath contains about 4.5% carbon dioxide, and
is therefore more dense than fresh air by about 2.3%. By analogy
with the treatment of waves on a string in section 3.2, we expect
that the speed of sound will be inversely proportional to the square
root of the density of the gas. Calculate the eﬀect on the frequency
produced by a wind instrument.
Problems 97
Appendix 1: Exercises
Exercise 1A: Vibrations
Equipment:
• air track and carts of two diﬀerent masses
• springs
• spring scales
Place the cart on the air track and attach springs so that it can vibrate.
1. Test whether the period of vibration depends on amplitude. Try at least one moderate
amplitude, for which the springs do not go slack, at least one amplitude that is large enough so
that they do go slack, and one amplitude that’s the very smallest you can possibly observe.
2. Try a cart with a diﬀerent mass. Does the period change by the expected factor, based on
the equation T = 2π
m/k?
3. Use a spring scale to pull the cart away from equilibrium, and make a graph of force versus
position. Is it linear? If so, what is its slope?
4. Test the equation T = 2π
m/k numerically.
Exercise 2A: Worksheet on Resonance
1. Compare the oscillator’s energies at A, B, C, and D.
2. Compare the Q values of the two oscillators.
3. Match the xt graphs in #2 with the amplitudefrequency graphs below.
99
Appendix 2: Photo Credits
Except as speciﬁcally noted below or in a parenthetical credit in the caption of a ﬁgure, all the illustrations in
this book are under my own copyright, and are copyleft licensed under the same license as the rest of the book.
In some cases it’s clear from the date that the ﬁgure is public domain, but I don’t know the name of the artist
or photographer; I would be grateful to anyone who could help me to give proper credit. I have assumed that
images that come from U.S. government web pages are copyrightfree, since products of federal agencies fall into
the public domain. I’ve included some publicdomain paintings; photographic reproductions of them are not
copyrightable in the U.S. (Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp., 36 F. Supp. 2d 191, S.D.N.Y. 1999).
When “PSSC Physics” is given as a credit, it indicates that the ﬁgure is from the ﬁrst edition of the textbook
entitled Physics, by the Physical Science Study Committee. The early editions of these books never had their
copyrights renewed, and are now therefore in the public domain. There is also a blanket permission given in
the later PSSC College Physics edition, which states on the copyright page that “The materials taken from the
original and second editions and the Advanced Topics of PSSC PHYSICS included in this text will be available
to all publishers for use in English after December 31, 1970, and in translations after December 31, 1975.”
Credits to Millikan and Gale refer to the textbooks Practical Physics (1920) and Elements of Physics (1927).
Both are public domain. (The 1927 version did not have its copyright renewed.) Since it is possible that some of
the illustrations in the 1927 version had their copyrights renewed and are still under copyright, I have only used
them when it was clear that they were originally taken from public domain sources.
In a few cases, I have made use of images under the fair use doctrine. However, I am not a lawyer, and the laws
on fair use are vague, so you should not assume that it’s legal for you to use these images. In particular, fair use
law may give you less leeway than it gives me, because I’m using the images for educational purposes, and giving
the book away for free. Likewise, if the photo credit says “courtesy of ...,” that means the copyright owner gave
me permission to use it, but that doesn’t mean you have permission to use it.
Contents Bridge, MRI, surfer, xray, galaxy: see below. 13 Electric bass: Brynjar Vik, CCBY license. 20
Jupiter: Uncopyrighted image from the Voyager probe. Line art by the author. 25 Tacoma Narrows Bridge:
Public domain, from Stillman Fires Collection: Tacoma Fire Dept, www.archive.org. 33 Nimitz Freeway:
Unknown photographer, courtesy of the UC Berkeley Earth Sciences and Map Library. 81 tympanometry:
Perception The Final Frontier, A PLoS Biology Vol. 3, No. 4, e137; modiﬁed by Wikipedia user Inductiveload
and by B. Crowell; CCBY license. 37 Twodimensional MRI: Image of the author’s wife. 37 Three
dimensional brain: R. Malladi, LBNL. 44 Spider oscillations: Emile, Le Floch, and Vollrath, Nature 440:621
(2006). 47 Painting of waves: Katsushika Hokusai (17601849), public domain. 50 Superposition of pulses:
Photo from PSSC Physics. 51 Marker on spring as pulse passes by: PSSC Physics. 52 Surﬁng (hand drag):
Stan Shebs, CCBYSA licensed (Wikimedia Commons). 62 Fetus: Image of the author’s daughter. 52
Breaking wave: Ole Kils, olekils at web.de, CCBYSA licensed (Wikipedia). 61 Wavelengths of circular and
linear waves: PSSC Physics. 62 Changing wavelength: PSSC Physics. 64 Doppler eﬀect for water waves:
PSSC Physics. 65 Doppler radar: Public domain image by NOAA, an agency of the U.S. federal government.
66 M51 galaxy: public domain Hubble Space Telescope image, courtesy of NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and
The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). 67 Mount Wilson: Andrew Dunn, ccbysa licensed. 68 X15:
NASA, public domain. 68 Jet breaking the sound barrier: Public domain product of the U.S. government, U.S.
Navy photo by Ensign John Gay. 75 Human crosssection: Courtesy of the Visible Human Project, National
Library of Medicine, US NIH. 76 Reﬂection of ﬁsh: Jan Derk, Wikipedia user janderk, public domain. 77
Reﬂection of circular waves: PSSC Physics. 77 Reﬂection of pulses: PSSC Physics. 78 Reﬂection of pulses:
Photo from PSSC Physics. 80 Xray image of hand: 1896 image produced by Roentgen. 87 Soap bubble:
Wikimedia Commons, CCBYSA, user Tagishsimon. 89 Photo of guitar: Wikimedia Commons, dedicated to
the public domain by user Tsca. 92 Standing waves: PSSC Physics. 85 Traﬃc: Wikipedia user Diliﬀ,
CCBY licensed. 94 Pan pipes: Wikipedia user Andrew Dunn, CCBYSA licensed. 94 Flute: Wikipedia
user Grendelkhan, CCBYSA licensed.
Appendix 3: Hints and Solutions
Answers to SelfChecks
Answers to SelfChecks for Chapter 2
Page 28, selfcheck A: The horizontal axis is a time axis, and the period of the vibrations is
independent of amplitude. Shrinking the amplitude does not make the cyles and faster.
Page 29, selfcheck B: Energy is proportional to the square of the amplitude, so its energy is
four times smaller after every cycle. It loses three quarters of its energy with each cycle.
Page 35, selfcheck C: She should tap the wine glasses she ﬁnds in the store and look for one
with a high Q, i.e., one whose vibrations die out very slowly. The one with the highest Q will
have the highestamplitude response to her driving force, making it more likely to break.
Answers to SelfChecks for Chapter 3
Page 51, selfcheck A: The leading edge is moving up, the trailing edge is moving down, and
the top of the hump is motionless for one instant.
Answers to SelfChecks for Chapter 4
Page 77, selfcheck A: The energy of a wave is usually proportional to the square of its
amplitude. Squaring a negative number gives a positive result, so the energy is the same.
Page 77, selfcheck B: A substance is invisible to sonar if the speed of sound waves in it is
the same as in water. Reﬂections only occur at boundaries between media in which the wave
speed is diﬀerent.
Page 79, selfcheck C: No. A material object that loses kinetic energy slows down, but a
wave is not a material object. The velocity of a wave ordinarily only depends on the medium,
not the amplitude. The speed of a soft sound, for example, is the same as the speed of a loud
sound.
Page 88, selfcheck D: 1. No. To get the best possible interference, the thickness of the
coating must be such that the second reﬂected wave train lags behind the ﬁrst by an integer
number of wavelengths. Optimal performance can therefore only be produced for one speciﬁc
color of light. The typical greenish color of the coatings shows that they do the worst job for
green light.
2. Light can be reﬂected either from the outer surface of the ﬁlm or from the inner surface, and
there can be either constructive or destructive interference between the two reﬂections. We see
a pattern that varies across the surface because its thickness isn’t constant. We see rainbow
colors because the condition for destructive or constructive interference depends on wavelength.
White light is a mixture of all the colors of the rainbow, and at a particular place on the soap
bubble, part of that mixture, say red, may be reﬂected strongly, while another part, blue for
example, is almost entirely transmitted.
Page 89, selfcheck E: The period is the time required to travel a distance 2L at speed v,
T = 2L/v. The frequency is f = 1/T = v/2L.
Page 94, selfcheck F: The wave pattern will look like this: . Three quarters of a
wavelength ﬁt in the tube, so the wavelength is three times shorter than that of the lowest
frequency mode, in which one quarter of a wave ﬁts. Since the wavelength is smaller by a factor
of three, the frequency is three times higher. Instead of f
o
, 2f
o
, 3f
o
, 4f
o
, . . ., the pattern of wave
frequencies of this air column goes f
o
, 3f
o
, 5f
o
, 7f
o
, . . .
Answers to Selected Homework Problems
Solutions for Chapter 4
Page 96, problem 3: Check: The actual length of a ﬂute is about 66 cm.
102 Appendix 3: Hints and Solutions
Index
absorption of waves, 79
amplitude
deﬁned, 16
peaktopeak, 16
related to energy, 27
comet, 13
damping
deﬁned, 28
decibel scale, 28
Doppler eﬀect, 64
driving force, 31
eardrum, 31
Einstein, Albert, 14
energy
related to amplitude, 27
exponential decay
deﬁned, 29
Fourier’s theorem, 90
frequency
deﬁned, 15
full width at halfmaximum, 35
fundamental, 91
FWHM, 35
Galileo, 19
Halley’s Comet, 13
harmonics, 91
Hooke’s law, 17
interference eﬀects, 86
light, 57
longitudinal wave, 58
motion
periodic, 15
overtones, 91
period
deﬁned, 15
pitch, 13
principle of superposition, 49
pulse
deﬁned, 49
quality factor
deﬁned, 29
reﬂection of waves, 76
resonance
deﬁned, 33
simple harmonic motion
deﬁned, 18
period of, 18
sound, 57
speed of, 52
standing wave, 91
steadystate behavior, 31
swing, 30
timbre, 91
tuning fork, 17
tympanogram, 81
wave
longitudinal, 58
work
done by a varying force, 14, 17, 19
104 Index
Index 105
Useful Data
Metric Preﬁxes
M mega 10
6
k kilo 10
3
m milli 10
−3
µ (Greek mu) micro 10
−6
n nano 10
−9
p pico 10
−12
f femto 10
−15
(Centi, 10
−2
, is used only in the centimeter.)
The Greek Alphabet
α A alpha ν N nu
β B beta ξ Ξ xi
γ Γ gamma o O omicron
δ ∆ delta π Π pi
E epsilon ρ P rho
ζ Z zeta σ Σ sigma
η H eta τ T tau
θ Θ theta υ Y upsilon
ι I iota φ Φ phi
κ K kappa χ X chi
λ Λ lambda ψ Ψ psi
µ M mu ω Ω omega
Speeds of Light and
Sound
speed of light c = 3.00 ×10
8
m/s
speed of sound c = 340 m/s
Subatomic Particles
particle mass (kg) radius (fm)
electron 9.109 ×10
−31
0.01
proton 1.673 ×10
−27
∼ 1.1
neutron 1.675 ×10
−27
∼ 1.1
The radii of protons and neutrons can only be given approx
imately, since they have fuzzy surfaces. For comparison, a
typical atom is about a million fm in radius.
Notation and Units
quantity unit symbol
distance meter, m x, ∆x
time second, s t, ∆t
mass kilogram, kg m
density kg/m
3
ρ
velocity m/s v
acceleration m/s
2
a
gravitational ﬁeld J/kg·m or m/s
2
g
force newton, 1 N=1 kg·m/s
2
F
pressure 1 Pa=1 N/m
2
P
energy joule, J E
power watt, 1 W = 1 J/s P
amplitude (varies) A
period s T
frequency Hz f
wavelength m λ
quality factor unitless Q
FWHM Hz FWHM
Conversions
Nonmetric units in terms of metric ones:
1 inch = 25.4 mm (by deﬁnition)
1 poundforce = 4.5 newtons of force
(1 kg) · g = 2.2 poundsforce
1 scientiﬁc calorie = 4.18 J
1 kcal = 4.18 ×10
3
J
1 gallon = 3.78 ×10
3
cm
3
1 horsepower = 746 W
When speaking of food energy, the word “Calorie” is used
to mean 1 kcal, i.e., 1000 calories. In writing, the capital C
may be used to indicate 1 Calorie=1000 calories.
Relationships among U.S. units:
1 foot (ft) = 12 inches
1 yard (yd) = 3 feet
1 mile (mi) = 5280 feet
106 Index
Earth, Moon, and Sun
body mass (kg) radius (km) radius of orbit (km)
earth 5.97 ×10
24
6.4 ×10
3
1.49 ×10
8
moon 7.35 ×10
22
1.7 ×10
3
3.84 ×10
5
sun 1.99 ×10
30
7.0 ×10
5
—
Index 107
The Light and Matter series of introductory physics textbooks: 1 2 3 4 5 6 Newtonian Physics Conservation Laws Vibrations and Waves Electricity and Magnetism Optics The Modern Revolution in Physics .
Benjamin Crowell www.lightandmatter.com .
com. ISBN 0970467036 .Fullerton. or download the digital version free of charge from www. as listed in the photo credits. it grants you certain privileges that you would not otherwise have.0. http://creativecommons. November 21. such as the right to copy the book. If you agree to the license. version 3.lightandmatter. except for those photographs and drawings of which I am not the author. 2010 This book is licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionShareAlike license.0/.com copyright 19982008 Benjamin Crowell rev. California www.lightandmatter.org/licenses/bysa/3.
.To Diz and Bird.
.
Brief Contents 1 2 3 4 Vibrations 13 Resonance 25 Free Waves 47 Bounded Waves 75 .
. 40. 1. . . . . . .— Statement 4: FWHM related to Q. . . . . . . . . .. . .—Wave patterns. . .—3. Why are sinewave vibrations so common?.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations . . . . .—Rigorous derivation using calculus (optional). . . . . The medium is not transported with the wave. 3 Free Waves 3. . ..4 Proofs .2 Energy Lost From Vibrations . . . Problems .3 Proofs . and Amplitude . . . . 19 22 23 Summary . . . 55. . . . . . . 54. .—What the Big Bang is not. . Problems . .Contents 1 Vibrations 1. . . . . . . 64 Summary . . . . Statement 2: maximum amplitude at resonance. . . . . 41 43 . . . 2. 18. .—Light waves.1 Energy In Vibrations . . The Big Bang. . Sound waves. .—2. 59 26 28 30 38 Summary . . . . 60. . . . 68. . . . . 51. . . . . A wave’s velocity depends on the medium. 39. . . .—Statement 3: amplitude at resonance proportional to Q. . Frequency.—Wavelength. . 61. 66.—Graphs of waves as a function of position. 56. . . . . 3. . Superposition. 60. . . . . . . . .1 Period. . . 57 2 Resonance 2.3 Sound and Light Waves . . 60 3. 70 10 . . 2. 53. . . . . 14 17 1.5 The Doppler Effect . . . . if the amplitude is small. . 57. 63. .4 Periodic Waves .. 1. 52. . . Period and frequency of a periodic wave. .—Approximate treatment. 49. . . 2. 61. .—Wave velocity related to frequency and wavelength.—Period is approximately independent of amplitude. . .2 Waves on a String . . . .—Sinusoidal waves.1 Wave Motion . Intuitive ideas. . . 39. . 17. . 49 3. .2 Simple Harmonic Motion . 54 3. . . . .
. . 76 Reﬂection and transmission. . .1 Reﬂection.— Inverted and uninverted reﬂections. . . 93. . Summary . 72 waves. . . 83. . . . .— Absorption.—Standingwave patterns of air columns. . 4. . . . . Problems . . Transmission. . . .Problems . 95 96 Appendix 1: Exercises 98 Appendix 2: Photo Credits 100 Appendix 3: Hints and Solutions 101 4 Bounded Waves 4. 84. Musical applications. . .—Standing 86 89 11 . . 79. . . . . . . 91. . .4 Waves Bounded on Both Sides . . .2 Quantitative Treatment of Reﬂection 83 Why reﬂection occurs. . . 79.—Inverted and uninverted reﬂections in general. 4. . . . 91.—Intensity of reﬂection. . . . . . 85. 76.3 Interference Effects . . and Absorption . . . . . . . . 4. . .
12 .
but in addition those vibrations will often be repetitive. from the orbits of electrons in atoms to the reappearance of Halley’s Comet every 75 years.” which has no recognizable pitch. Ancient cultures tended to attribute repetitious phenomena 13 . why was Nature’s assumption of repetition nevertheless so right in general? Repeating phenomena occur throughout nature. the most prominent of which have to do with vibrations. Read those two words. Granting that we do sometimes encounter nonrepeating waves such as the consonant “sh. The velvety throb of a cello has as its most obvious characteristic a relatively low musical pitch — the note you are spontaneously imagining right now might be one whose sound vibrations repeat at a rate of a hundred times a second. then to sound vibrations. and ﬁnally to vibrations of our eardrums. Cello. Chapter 1 Vibrations Dandelion. and your brain instantly conjures a stream of associations.The vibrations of this electric bass string are converted to electrical vibrations. Our mental category of “dandelionness” is strongly linked to the color of light waves that vibrate about half a million billion times a second: yellow. Evolution has designed our two most important senses around the assumption that not only will our environment be drenched with informationbearing vibrations. so that we can judge colors and pitches by the rate of repetition.
If we now hit the mass with a hammer. at 10. When the block comes back to its initial position again. and will then vibrate. 4. and the formation of matter is just one of the tricks that waves can do. But at such a crossing point. it oscillates as shown in the series of snapshots. 2. But at the beginning of the 20th century. Frequency. or compressed. but we now have a less mystical explanation. Up to this point in your study of physics. and will now repeat forever in the absence of friction. Conservation laws. A chain of discoveries initiated by Albert Einstein led to the realization that the socalled subatomic “particles” were in fact waves. 14 Chapter 1 Vibrations . or compressed. and Amplitude Figure b shows our most basic example of a vibration. The motion has gone through one complete cycle. 3. then conservation of energy proves that the motion must be repetitive. 1. the spring assumes its equilibrium length. 2. it no longer seems surprising that it does.1 Period. particles of matter are the fundamental building blocks of everything. because angular momentum must be conserved as well. we decide to take a pen and draw a whimsical alternative path that never repeats. so it must have the same kinetic energy again. the comet has returned to a place it visited once before. however. where the electrons circling the nucleus resemble — well. A mass attached to the spring can be set into motion initially. and since its potential energy is the same as it was on the last visit. 3. We will not be able to draw for very long without having the path cross itself. It can be stretched. But it goes deeper than that. 1. If we assume that the mass slides back and forth without friction and that the motion is onedimensional. and can be stretched. then. Not only that. it is vibrations and waves that are fundamental. and vibrations and waves are just a couple of the tricks that groups of particles can do. The motion is in the opposite direction. we end up at the atomic level. the tables were turned. little clocks! From this point of view. 7. Breaking the clockwork down into smaller and smaller bits. but the comet’s direction of motion cannot be randomly chosen. its potential energy is the same again. In this new worldview. With no forces on it. 4. conservation of energy proves that it must again have the same kinetic energy and therefore the same speed. it returns to its initial position with the same kinetic energy and the same direction of motion.a / If we try to draw a nonrepeating orbit for Halley’s Comet. I have been indoctrinating you with a mechanistic vision of the universe as a giant piece of clockwork. Finally. We attach the spring to a wall on the left and to a mass on the right. like the seasons to the cyclical nature of time itself. provide us with a good reason why repetitive motion is so prevalent in the universe. b/1. it will inevitably end up crossing itself. repeating elliptical orbit that closes seamlessly upon itself with each revolution. Suppose that instead of Halley’s Comet’s true. Although this falls short of being an ironclad proof that the comet’s orbit must repeat. 413. The usual physics terminology for motion that repeats itself over b / A spring has an equilibrium length. 413.
and over is periodic motion. because kinetic energy has been converted into heat. though. you can create enough kinetic friction so that a signiﬁcant amount of heat is generated. A carnival game example 1 In the carnival game shown in ﬁgure c. staying conﬁned within the valley. There is a way to beat the game. a quantity called the frequency. It is therefore more common to discuss the rapidity of a vibration in terms of the number of vibrations per second. The motion that the customer hopes for is physically impossible. then the frequency of their motion is f = 200/1 s = 200 s−1 . c / Example 1. but does not come back out again. Conservation of energy then allows the ball to be at rest when it comes back to a point like the outlined one. If the only types of energy involved are kinetic and potential. going to the left on its way into the valley. Since the period is the number of seconds per cycle and the frequency is the number of cycles per second. f . and the time required for one repetition is called the period. If you put enough spin on the ball. they are reciprocals of each other. but there is no way to get the ball into that motion beginning from the place where we start. 200 times in one second. this is impossible. and Amplitude 15 . The period is one 200th of a second. Period and frequency of a ﬂy’s wingbeats example 2 A Victorian parlor trick was to listen to the pitch of a ﬂy’s buzz. so conservation of energy tells us that it cannot be at rest when it comes back to the same point. We are used to referring to shortperiod sound vibrations as “high” in pitch. T = 1/f = (1/200) s = 0. Frequency. and it sounds odd to have to say that high pitches have low periods. There is a physically possible periodic motion in which the ball rolls back and forth. reproduce the musical note on the piano.) One complete repetition of the motion is called a cycle.1 Period. T . then stop and turn around. and announce how many times the ﬂy’s wings had ﬂapped in one second. (The symbol P is not used because of the possible confusion with momentum. f = 1/T . If the ﬂy’s wings ﬂap. It was moving then.005 s. say. Section 1. Suppose you expect the ball to come back to a point such as the one shown with the dashed outline. the rube is supposed to push the bowling ball on the track just hard enough so that it goes over the hump and into the valley. It would already have passed through this point once before.
but it would be somewhat more common in physics to use the distance from the center to one extreme. 30 clock cycles. and two people discussing the same system may not even use the same deﬁnition. named in honor of a pioneer of radio technology. millions. are awkward in speech. since her feet will move a greater distance than her head. This corresponds to a period of T = 1/f = 1.. One could work in terms of the distance traveled by the block from the extreme left to the extreme right.1 MHz. say. The former is usually referred to as the peaktopeak amplitude. Microcomputers these days operate at clock frequencies of about a gigahertz. d/2. The amplitude of a child on a swing. 16 Chapter 1 Vibrations . The deﬁnition of amplitude depends on the system being discussed. since the extremes of the motion look like mountain peaks or upsidedown mountain peaks on a graph of position versus time. This example shows a second reason why we normally speak in terms of frequency rather than period: it would be painful to have to refer to such small time intervals routinely. Frequency of a radio station example 3 KKJZ’s frequency is 88. The electrical vibrations in a radio receiver would be measured in electrical units such as volts or amperes. Units of frequency are also commonly used to specify the speeds of computers. but not how big the vibrations are. d/1. We have discussed how to measure how fast something vibrates.Units of inverse second. It would have units of distance.14 × 10−8 s . so an abbreviation has been created. but most people are more familiar with the big metric preﬁxes than with the small ones.is mega. and what period does this correspond to? The metric preﬁx M. s−1 . The amplitude of the vibrations of the mass on a spring could be deﬁned in two different ways. In other situations we would not even use the same units for amplitude. This is the familiar unit used for the frequencies on the radio dial. 2. What does this mean.e. d / 1. is one cycle per second. 1 Hz = 1 s−1 .1 million times per second. A. i. The radio waves emitted by KKJZ’s transmitting antenna vibrate 88. would most conveniently be measured as an angle. not a distance. In the example of the block on the end of the spring. the amplitude will be measured in distance units such as cm. In abbreviated form. Adding two numbers might require. The amplitude of a swinging pendulum would more naturally be deﬁned as an angle. or a pendulum. I could abbreviate by telling people that KKJZ’s period was 11. so that the circuits can all cooperate on a task without getting ahead or behind.4 nanoseconds. One Hertz. The idea is that all the little circuits on a computer chip are synchronized by the very fast ticks of an electronic clock. The general term for this is amplitude.
for which force on the mass is given by Hooke’s law. is equal to minus its slope. as shown in ﬁgure e/1. a car that is bouncing lightly on its shock absorbers may behave smoothly. we will deﬁne the origin of our coordinate system so that x equals zero at equilibrium. then it must have a leftward force on it when it is on the right side. which behaves exactly according to Hooke’s law. or a sine or cosine shifted by some arbitrary horizontal amount.1. e/4. and the spring constant. so the vibrations would actually die out quite quickly. k. F = −kx . but if we try to double the amplitude of the vibrations the bottom of the car may begin hitting the ground. e / Sinusoidal and nonsinusoidal vibrations. If an object is vibrating to the right and left. rather than repeating for many cycles as shown in the ﬁgure. we can represent the direction of the force using a positive or negative sign. (We call it a “sine wave” or “sinusoidal” even if it is a cosine. a sapling pulled to one side and released. where the object would stay at rest if it was released at rest. This is the equilibrium point. The graph is a line. and a rightward force when it is on the left side. For example. f / The force exerted by an ideal spring. and since the force changes from positive to negative there must be a point in the middle where the force is zero. Each time the car hits the ground it will convert quite a bit of its potential and kinetic energy into heat and sound. but it works very well for most springs in real life. we will ﬁnd that its x−t graph is nearly a perfect sinewave shape. a car bouncing on its shock absorbers.2 Simple Harmonic Motion Why are sinewave vibrations so common? If we actually construct the massonaspring system discussed in the previous section and measure its motion accurately. For convenience of notation throughout this chapter. A tuning fork. It is not hard to see intuitively why extremes of amplitude would act diﬀerently. The simplest example is the mass on a spring.2 Simple Harmonic Motion 17 . (Although we are assuming for simplicity in this chapter that energy is never dissipated.) The key to understanding how an object vibrates is to know how the force on the object depends on the object’s position. as long as the spring Section 1. this is clearly not a very realistic assumption in this example. A stiﬀer spring has a larger value of k and a steeper slope. as shown in ﬁgure f. Hooke’s law is only an approximation. In one dimension. all these systems will exhibit sinewave motion under one condition: the amplitude of the motion must be small. but why is it a speciﬁc mathematically perfect shape? Why is it not a sawtooth shape like 2 or some other shape like 3? The mystery deepens as we ﬁnd that a vast number of apparently unrelated vibrating systems show the same mathematical feature.) It may not be surprising that it is a wiggle of this general sort. We can visualize the behavior of this force using a graph of F versus x.
Even if you do not read the proof. Figure g/1 depicts a force curve that is not a straight line. A greater mass causes a greater period. they would be very nearly sinusoidal. This is because at large amplitudes. Until now we have not even mentioned the most counterintuitive aspect of the equation T = 2π m/k: it does not depend on amplitude at all. But the same system would exhibit sinusoidal smallamplitude vibrations. 18 Chapter 1 Vibrations . A sinusoidal vibration is known as simple harmonic motion. If the total force on a vibrating object depends only on the object’s position. it is not too hard to understand why the equation for the period makes sense. to objects ranging from vibrating stars to vibrating nuclei.isn’t compressed or stretched so much that it is permanently bent or damaged. if we restrict ourselves to small amplitudes. if the amplitude is small. then the object’s motion displays a sinusoidal graph with period T = 2π m/k. The theorem is therefore of great general signiﬁcance. A larger value of k causes a shorter period. relates the motion graph to the force graph. If the vibrations were conﬁned to the region shown in g/2. and is related to the objects displacement from equilibrium by an equation of the form F = −kx. because a stronger force can whip the object back and forth more rapidly. g / Seen from close up. A system with this F − x curve would have largeamplitude vibrations that were complex and not sinusoidal. but ﬁgure g shows it to be far more general than that. any F − x curve looks like a line. This is the reason why sinusoidal vibrations are a universal feature of all vibrating systems.3. whose proof is given in optional section 1. This may seem like only an obscure theorem about the massonaspring system. Theorem: A linear force graph makes a sinusoidal motion graph. and therefore accelerates the object to higher speeds. Period is approximately independent of amplitude. If we magnify the F − x graph as shown in ﬁgure g/2. Intuitively. the force is greater. it becomes very diﬃcult to tell that the graph is not a straight line. The following important theorem.) In fact the largeramplitude vibrations take the same amount of time as the smallamplitude ones. but both small enough that the theorem applies. since the force will not be able to whip a massive object back and forth very rapidly. (We are comparing amplitudes that are diﬀerent from each other. most people would expect the massonaspring system to take longer to complete a cycle if the amplitude was larger. This is because any curve looks linear from very close up. It applies throughout the universe.
it looks like motion with a sinusoidal x−t graph. (2) that the period of the motion is 2π m/k. a minute hand.3 Proofs 19 . Even without a fancy system of pulleys to keep the pendulum’s vibrations from dying down. so the period of a pendulum is independent of m. Projected onto the line. The idea of the proof. (Galileo never produced a modernstyle pendulum clock with pulleys. he could get very accurate time measurements. The basic idea of the proof can be understood by imagining that you are watching a child on a merrygoround from far away. we might expect that a larger mass would lead to a longer period. is to show that an object acted on by a force that varies as F = −kx has motion that is identical to circular motion projected down to one dimension. but even though its overall speed is constant. The v 2 /r expression will also fall out at the end. Because you are in the same horizontal plane as her motion. You may omit this section without losing the continuity of the chapter. she appears to be moving from side to side along a line. This increases k as well as m. and a second hand. because the gradual decrease in amplitude due to friction would have no eﬀect on the pendulum’s period. the period of oscillation seemed to be the same. A gust of wind would now and then start one of the chandeliers in the cathedral swaying back and forth. and he noticed that regardless of the amplitude of the vibrations. However. But after going home and testing a pendulum. and (3) that the period is independent of the amplitude. as shown by the unequal spacing of the points when projected onto the line below. From the equation T = 2π m/k . Circular motion viewed edgeon doesn’t just look like any kind of backandforth motion. he convinced himself that he had found a superior method of measuring time. the x and y components of its velocity are continuously changing. h / The object moves along the circle at constant speed. then.3 Proofs In this section we prove (1) that a linear F − x graph gives sinusoidal motion. its motion is the same as that of an object experiencing a force F = −kx . he had been carrying out his physics experiments with such crude timemeasuring techniques as feeling his own pulse or singing a tune to keep a musical beat. Section 1.) The pendulum example 4 Compare the periods of pendula having bobs with different masses. increasing the mass also increases the forces that act on the pendulum: gravity and the tension in the string. but within a generation the device had taken on the form that persisted for hundreds of years after. Up until that time. because the sine and cosine functions can be deﬁned as the x and y coordinates of a point at angle θ on the unit circle.Legend has it that this fact was ﬁrst noticed by Galileo during what was apparently a less than enthralling church service. 1.
Their discovery by Galileo was an epochal event in astronomy.The moons of Jupiter. giving Fx = − 4π 2 mr cos θ T2 . 20 Chapter 1 Vibrations . completes half a cycle. ax = Fx v2 = − cos θ . r The x component of the acceleration is therefore a = v2 cos θ . they appear to perform sinusoidal vibrations. the innermost moon. so m r v2 Fx = −m cos θ . example 5 Before moving on to the proof. we illustrate the concept using the moons of Jupiter. Io. it is natural to eliminate the variable v = circumference/T = 2πr/T . Galileo’s telescope was of poor quality by modern standards. Applying Newton’s second law. For an object performing uniform circular motion. i / Example 5. we have v2 . but ﬁgure i shows a simulation of how Jupiter and its moons might appear at intervals of three hours through a large presentday instrument. r Since our goal is an equation involving the period. because it proved that not everything in the universe had to revolve around the earth as had been believed. r where θ is the angle measured counterclockwise from the x axis. Because we see the moons’ circular orbits edgeon. Over this time period.
Finally. we have proved that motion with force proportional to x is the same as circular motion projected onto a line. subject to the initial assumption of perfect F = −kx behavior. k Since this equation is independent of r.3 Proofs 21 . m T = 2π . Since everything is constant in this equation except for x.The quantity r cos θ is the same as x. Section 1. and therefore that a force proportional to x gives sinusoidal motion. which in reality will only hold approximately for small x. T is independent of the amplitude. and solving for T gives the desired equation for the period. we identify the constant factor of 4π 2 m/T 2 with k. so we have Fx = − 4π 2 m x T2 .
. . . motion that repeats itself over and over period . This type of vibration is called simple harmonic motion. . . . it would have to have a diﬀerent kinetic energy and therefore a diﬀerent total energy. . Not only are periodic vibrations very common. . . . . . . this is known as the spring constant. conservation of energy requires that an object repeat its motion. . Summary Periodic motion is common in the world around us because of conservation laws. . . . . For a spring. . because otherwise when it came back to the same point. . . the period is independent of the amplitude. . but smallamplitude vibrations are always sinusoidal as well. . . . . . . nu. . . f . . omega. . ω . . . . k. . is often used as an abbreviation for 2πf . An important example is onedimensional motion in which the only two forms of energy involved are potential and kinetic. is used in many books for frequency. . . . The Greek letter ν. . Other Terminology and Notation ν . may have diﬀerent units depending on the nature of the vibration simple harmonic motion whose x − t graph is a sine wave motion . . . . often measured from the center to one side. . . Notation T . and is given by T = 2π m/k . . . . . . the inverse of the period amplitude . . . . . period frequency amplitude the slope of the graph of F versus x. . the time required for one cycle of a periodic motion frequency . the amount of vibration. . That is.Summary Selected Vocabulary periodic motion . . A . . . . in such a situation. The Greek letter ω. . . where F is the total force acting on an object and x is the object’s position. . . . the number of cycles per second. 22 Chapter 1 Vibrations . . This is because the graph of force versus position will always look like a straight line on a suﬃciently small scale. . . In simple harmonic motion. . . the x − t graph is a sine wave.
Approximate the curve with a straight line. and derive the approximate period of √ oscillation.00 m.] (b) Based on your answer from part (a). The upward force of the air on the piston is given by Fair = ax−1. To what range of periods does this range of frequencies correspond? 3 (a) Pendulum 2 has a string twice as long as pendulum 1.00 N. accurate graph of the total force. explain why the vibration of the piston about equilibrium is not simple harmonic motion. 4 A pneumatic spring consists of a piston riding on top of the air in a cylinder. how does the period of pendulum 2 compare with the period of pendulum 1? Give a numerical ratio. which they wiggle back and forth. is where FW equals −Fair . 2 Many singlecelled organisms propel themselves through water with long tails. showing roughly how the curve is diﬀerent from a sine wave. If we deﬁne x as the distance traveled by the bob along a circle away from the bottom. but equal angles do not correspond to equal values of x. assume the air only supports the weight. FW . x0 .4 .98 m to 1.4 . x0 = 1.) Assume friction is negligible. as a function of x. where a is a constant with funny units of N · m1. (The most obvious example is the sperm cell.01 m. The equilibrium position. ﬁnd its slope. (Note that in the main text I have assumed the equilibrium position to be at x = 0. on graph paper. A problem that requires calculus. but that is not the natural choice here.) The frequency of the tail’s vibration is typically about 1015 Hz. you will ﬁnd that the force is very nearly proportional to x − x0 . The piston is released from x = 1. Over this small range.02 m. For simplicity. and sketch a graph of x vs t. [Hint: Acceleration corresponds to the Problem 4. F .4 .0 N·m1. covering the range from x = 0. although in practice this device is used to support some other object. of the piston itself. 1 Find an equation for the frequency of simple harmonic motion in terms of k and m. Let a = 1. but now imagine that the oscillations are not small. and FW = −1. Draw a neat. 5 Consider the same pneumatic piston described in problem 4. and consider a case where the amplitude of the vibrations is very small. how does the k of pendulum 2 compare with the k of pendulum 1? Give a numerical ratio. Problems 23 . For a wider range of motion.Problems Key √ A computerized answer check is available online. [Hint: the total force on the bob is the same if the angles away from the bottom are the same. A diﬃcult problem. Sketch a graph of the total force on the piston as it would appear over this wider range of motion.
m/k has units that make 9 A hot scientiﬁc question of the 18th century was the shape of the earth: whether its radius was greater at the equator than at the poles. and verify that plugging in h − h0 gives a total force of zero. and show that can be expressed in terms of and g only. and that it bulged at the equator? 24 Chapter 1 Vibrations .780 to 9. rather than a > b as in the real seesaw. because if the boat was instantly removed and the hole in the water ﬁlled back in. For instance. but also to the greater radius of the earth at the equator. This change. (a) Show that a cube of mass m with edges of length b ﬂoating upright (not tilted) in a ﬂuid of density ρ will have a draft (depth to which it sinks below the waterline) h given at equilibrium by h0 = m/b2 ρ. 7 The ﬁgure shows a seesaw with two springs at Codornices Park in Berkeley. (b) Discuss the special case where a = b. the force of the surrounding water would be just the right amount to hold up this new “chunk” of water.022 m/s2 eﬀect to be expected if the earth had been spherical. and b.] 6 Archimedes’ principle states that an object partly or wholly immersed in ﬂuid experiences a buoyant force equal to the weight of the ﬂuid it displaces. or the other way around. The greater eﬀect occurs because the equator feels a reduction due not just to the acceleration of the spinning earth out from under it. m. 8 Show that the equation T = 2π sense. if a boat is ﬂoating in water. the graph should curve around more quickly. amounting to 0. California. so if the force is greater. What is the accuracy with which the period of a onesecond pendulum would have to be measured in order to prove that the earth was not a sphere. is greater than the 0. the upward pressure of the water (vector sum of all the forces of the water pressing inward and upward on every square inch of its hull) must be equal to the weight of the water displaced. (c) Find the cube’s period of oscillation as it bobs up and down in the water. a. then the the strength of gravity would in reality be observed to vary over a range from about 9.046 m/s2 . If the highest and lowest latitudes accessible to explorers were 0 and 70 degrees.826 m/s2 . and a kid of mass m sits on each seat. (b) Find the total force on the cube when its draft is h.curvature of the x − t graph. (a) Find the period of vibration in terms of the variables k. One method used to attack this question was to measure gravity accurately in diﬀerent locations on the earth using pendula. (c) Show that your answer to part a also makes sense in the case of b = 0. Problem 7. Each spring has spring constant k.
with the sides vibrating 8.. Chapter 2 Resonance Soon after the milelong Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened in July 1940.” the bridge collapsed in a steady 42mileperhour wind on November 7 of the same year.5 meters (28 feet) up and down. Note that the bridge is over a mile long. Before I realized it. The following is an eyewitness report from a newspaper editor who found himself on the bridge as the vibrations approached the breaking point. the tilt became so violent that I lost control of the car.. The righthand picture gives a sense of the massive scale of the construction. motorists began to notice its tendency to vibrate frighteningly in even a moderate wind. Nicknamed “Galloping Gertie. “Just as I drove past the towers. Middle: The bridge immediately before the collapse.Top: A series of images from a ﬁlm of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge vibrating on the day it was to collapse. I jammed on the brakes and 25 . Bottom: During and after the ﬁnal collapse. the bridge began to sway violently from side to side.
the same eﬀect that allows an opera singer to break a wine glass with her voice and that lets you tune in the radio station you want. the girders massive and made of carbon steel. The engineers learned their lesson and simply included some slight modiﬁcations to avoid the resonance phenomenon that spelled the doom of the ﬁrst one. It was not replaced for ten years. The reason for its collapse was not substandard materials or construction. The car itself began to slide from side to side of the roadway. the subsequent behavior of the system is identical. Safely back at the toll plaza. It trades energy back and forth between kinetic and potential energy. (We are still assuming there is no friction. The replacement bridge.) The most important thing to understand about the energy content of vibrations is that the total energy is proportional to the 26 Chapter 2 Resonance . my knees were raw and bleeding. 2. was built smarter. not stronger.. I crawled 500 yards or more to the towers. Going back to our standard example of a mass on a spring... “On hands and knees most of the time.. all with the goal of understanding the important phenomenon of resonance. nor was the bridge underdesigned: the piers were hundredfoot blocks of concrete. My breath was coming in gasps. and in the subsequent sections we will move on to the loss of energy and the adding of energy to a vibrating system.. I started to get my dog Tubby. and the system never runs down. one of the world’s largest. “Around me I could hear concrete cracking. I risked rising to my feet and running a few yards at a time.. only to be thrown onto my face against the curb. which has lasted half a century so far. The bridge was destroyed because of the physical phenomenon of resonance. we discuss the energy contained in a vibration.got out. so that no energy is converted to heat. Toward the last. I saw the bridge in its ﬁnal collapse and saw my car plunge into the Narrows.1 Energy In Vibrations One way of describing the collapse of the bridge is that the bridge kept taking energy from the steadily blowing wind and building up more and more energetic vibrations. my hands bruised and swollen from gripping the concrete curb. we ﬁnd that there are two forms of energy involved: the potential energy stored in the spring and the kinetic energy of the moving mass. We may start the system in motion either by hitting the mass to put in kinetic energy by pulling it to one side to put in potential energy.” The ruins of the bridge formed an artiﬁcial reef. Either way. In this section. but was thrown again before I could reach the car.
and place it in the lefthand side. so the energy is greater by a factor a / Example 1. Are these conclusions restricted to the massonaspring example? No.square of the amplitude. so the energy is proportional to the square of the amplitude. We have already seen that F = −kx is a valid approximation for any vibrating object. proving that energy is proportional to A2 at any point would suﬃce to prove that energy is proportional to A2 in general. This potential energy is the same as the work that would have to be done to take the water out of the righthand side down to a depth A below the equilibrium level. How many times greater is the energy with which your ear has to cope for the painfully loud sound. but it does have kinetic energy. At this point it has no potential energy. We are thus left with a very general conclusion: the energy of any vibration is approximately proportional to the square of the amplitude. compared to the soft sound? The amplitude is 106 times greater. The range of energies of sound waves example 2 The amplitude of vibration of your eardrum at the threshold of pain is about 106 times greater than the amplitude with which it vibrates in response to the softest sound you can hear. raise it through a height A. it has only potential energy and no kinetic energy. it is instructive to consider two speciﬁc moments in the motion of the mass on a spring as examples. The weight of this chunk of water is proportional to A. Although the total energy is constant. The velocity is proportional to the amplitude of the motion. so the energy is proportional to A2 . We have already seen that the potential energy stored in a spring equals (1/2)kx2 .1 Energy In Vibrations 27 . Now consider the moment when the mass is passing through the equilibrium point at x = 0. (1/2)mv 2 . and energy is proportional to the square of the amplitude. At this point. at rest and ready to reverse directions. When the mass is all the way to one side. and so is the height through which it must be lifted. as long as the amplitude is small. since the energy is constant. is proportional to the square of the velocity. The reason for singling out these two points is merely instructive. The energy of such a vibration is most easily calculated by considering the “turnaround point” when the water has stopped and is about to reverse directions. and the kinetic energy. Water in a Utube example 1 If water is poured into a Ushaped tube as shown in the ﬁgure. so again we ﬁnd that the energy is proportional to the square of the amplitude. so by calculating its potential energy we can ﬁnd the energy of the vibration. it can undergo vibrations about equilibrium. provided that the amplitude is small. Section 2. all its energy is potential.
of 1012 . . Although a detailed discussion of the decibel scale is not relevant here. . a guitar string will slowly convert its kinetic and potential energy into sound. heavy metal concert . We sense the diﬀerence between the wind and the quiet conversation as spanning a range of about 5/12 as much as the whole range from the wind to the heavy metal concert. In the graphs in ﬁgure b. we have been making the relatively unrealistic assumption that a vibration would never die out. For a realistic mass on a spring. Note that because of the huge range of energies that our ear can sense. it would not be reasonable to have a sense of loudness that was additive. and the kinetic and potential energy of the vibrations will therefore be gradually converted into heat. The zero of the decibel scale is close to the lower limit of human hearing. Why is this wrong? Answer. In all cases. or how the energy gets to us through the air. the following three levels of sound: barely audible wind quiet conversation . there will be friction. p. for instance. I have not shown any point at which 28 Chapter 2 Resonance . selfcheck A Most people who try to draw graphs like those shown on the left will tend to shrink their wiggles horizontally as well as vertically. . the eﬀect is to “pinch” the sinusoidal x − t graph more and more with passing time. Evolution wanted our sense of hearing to be able to encompass all these sounds without collapsing the bottom of the scale so that anything softer than the crack of doom would sound the same. So rather than making our sense of loudness additive. not waves.2 Energy Lost From Vibrations Until now. so we are not yet concerned with how a sound wave works. and adding 1 unit to the decibel measurement corresponds to multiplying the energy level (or actually the power per unit area) by a certain factor. the basic point to note about the decibel scale is that it is logarithmic. mother nature made it multiplicative. 105 times more energy than the wind 1012 times more energy than the wind In terms of addition and subtraction. Consider. This is a phenomenally large factor! We are only studying vibrations right now. 101 b / Friction has the effect of pinching the x − t graph of a vibrating object. Friction is not necessarily bad in this context — a musical instrument that never got rid of any of its energy would be completely silent! The dissipation of the energy in a vibration is known as damping. . 2. the diﬀerence between the wind and the quiet conversation is nothing compared to the diﬀerence between the quiet conversation and the heavy metal concert. Similarly.
If the friction force is proportional to v. Is this realistic? Yes and no. which is approximately proportional to v 2 .2 Energy Lost From Vibrations 29 . p.) Damping due to a constant friction force is not the only possibility however. Since both the work and the energy are proportional to A2 . then we expect the force of friction to be nearly independent of velocity. If energy is being lost due to friction between two solid surfaces. but reversing the direction of the motion at the same time that we reverse the direction of the force makes it certain that the object is always doing positive work. which loses half of its amplitude with every cycle. is the base of natural logarithms. It turns out that friction proportional to v is the simplest case to analyze mathematically. so the frictional force is proportional to amplitude. 101 It is customary to describe the amount of damping with a quantity called the quality factor. since work equals force times distance. This constant friction force puts an upper limit on the total distance that the vibrating object can ever travel without replenishing its energy.) The terminology arises from the fact that friction is often considered a bad c / The amplitude with each cycle. and the object must stop doing work when its energy is all converted into heat. the amount of energy taken away by friction in one cycle is a ﬁxed percentage of the amount of energy the system has. (The origin of this obscure numerical factor is e2π . while other systems may exhibit friction forces that are proportional to v. the loss of energy from the system is exponential: the system loses a ﬁxed percentage of its energy per cycle. The less energy is left in the system. selfcheck B Figure c shows an xt graph for a strongly damped vibration. so the work done in one cycle is proportional to the square of the amplitude. Choosing this particular number causes some of our later equations to come out nice and simple. (The friction force does reverse directions when the object turns around. and mathematically. the more miserly the system becomes with giving away any more energy. Q. The amount of work done by friction is proportional to the force and to the distance traveled.71828 . or even the most common one. where e = 2. and anyhow all the important physical insights can be gained by studying this case. the frictional forces get weaker due to the lower speeds. Under these conditions. A nonrigorous proof is as follows. . the vibrations theoretically never die out completely. . and v is proportional to how far the objects travels in one cycle. deﬁned as the number of cycles required for the energy to fall oﬀ by a factor of 535.the damped vibration ﬁnally stops completely. This is referred to as exponential decay. A pendulum may be damped mainly by air friction. What fraction of the energy is lost in each cycle? Answer. is halved Section 2. The force of friction is proportional to v. not negative work. then as the vibrations die down.
the note will keep sounding for a short time. We therefore expect that stereo speaker will have a very low Q. Nor can you give short pushes at randomly chosen times.9 × 105 . but will not allow the swing to start swinging. so a mechanical device that can vibrate for many oscillations before it loses a signiﬁcant fraction of its energy would be considered a highquality device. driving force. In other words. After another 10 cycles we lose another factor of 535. pushing at the same point in each cycle. Adding a longer “tail” on every note would make it sound wrong. Q of a stereo speaker example 4 Stereo speakers are not supposed to reverberate or “ring” after an electrical signal that stops suddenly. how will the sound intensity 20 cycles later compare with the sound intensity while she was still blowing? The trumpet’s Q is 10. so the sound intensity is reduced by a factor of 535 × 535 = 2. That type of random pushing would increase the child’s kinetic energy whenever you happened to be pushing in the same direction as her motion. you cannot just apply a constant force. but it would reduce her energy when your pushing happened to be in the opposite direction compared to her motion. and might have a Q of 1000 or 10000. 2. Pushing a child on a swing gradually puts more and more energy into her vibrations. the recorded music was made by musicians who knew how to shape the decays of their notes correctly. 3. A guitar is meant to keep on sounding for a long time after a string has been plucked.thing. but more mathematically simple. and indeed. 2.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations When pushing a child on a swing. Exponential decay in a trumpet example 3 The vibrations of the air column inside a trumpet have a Q of about 10. but the Q that is considered desirable is diﬀerent for diﬀerent instruments. The decay of a musical sound is part of what gives it its character. This means that even after the trumpet player stops blowing. your force needs to form a repeating pattern with the same frequency as the normal frequency of vibration of the swing. most speakers are designed with a Q of about 1. Graph d/1 shows what the child’s x − t d / 1. If the player suddenly stops blowing. (Lowquality speakers with larger Q values are referred to as “boomy.”) We will see later in the chapter that there are other reasons why a speaker should not have a high Q. 30 Chapter 2 Resonance . To make her build up her energy. A less realistic. you need to make your pushes rhythmic. and a good musical instrument should have the right Q. After all. A constant force will move the swing out to a certain angle. so after 10 cycles the energy will have fallen off by a factor of 535. One of the reasons why a cheap synthesizer sounds so bad is that the sound suddenly cuts oﬀ after a key is released. A fairly realistic graph of the driving force acting on the child.
As the amplitude of the vibrations increases. This process of approaching a maximum amplitude happens extremely quickly in many cases. the area under the forcedistance curve). but in this case the range of frequencies to which it can respond is quite broad. however. there is energy going out as well as in. although there is only a small range over which a given station can be received. 3. more accurately. and this also serves to increase the rate at which damping forces remove energy as the amplitude increases.g. Work equals force times distance (or. and we don’t even notice that it took a millisecond or a microsecond for the vibrations to “build up steam. This occurs for two reasons. A good example of this is your eardrum being driven by the force of a sound wave. A graph of your force versus time would probably look something like graph 2. In any realistic system. but it couldn’t be too small or you wouldn’t be able to adjust the knob accurately enough. Now comes the interesting part: what happens if the frequency of the driving force is mismatched to the frequency at which the system would naturally vibrate on its own? We all know that a radio station doesn’t have to be tuned in exactly. Eventually (and small children and our eardrums are thankful for this!).0 MHz and still bring in a station at 88. the damping force usually increases with velocity (we usually assume for simplicity that it is proportional to velocity). As the vibrations increase in amplitude. nor does your eardrum end up exploding because a continuing sound wave keeps pumping more and more energy into it. at which energy is removed by the damping force just as quickly as it is being put in by the driving force. the ear or a radio receiver.) The ear also has some natural frequency of vibration. It turns out. e. the amplitude approaches a maximum value.1 MHz. Section 2. The remainder of this section develops four important facts about e / The amplitude approaches a maximum.” We are therefore mainly interested in predicting the behavior of the system once it has had enough time to reach essentially its maximum amplitude. there is an increase in the amount of energy taken away by damping with each cycle. This is known as the steadystate behavior of a vibrating system. Furthermore. The designers of the radio had to make the range fairly small to make it possible eliminate unwanted stations that happened to be nearby in frequency. e. (Even a digital radio can be tuned to 88. that it is much simpler mathematically to consider a vibration with energy being pumped into it by a driving force that is itself a sinewave.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations 31 .. the damping force is being applied over a longer distance. Evolution has made the ear’s frequency response as broad as possible because it was to our ancestors’ advantage to be able to hear everything from a low roars to a highpitched shriek.graph would look like as you gradually put more and more energy into her vibrations. Now we know realistically that the child on the swing will not keep increasing her energy forever.
it does not vibrate at 4000 Hz in response to a lowpitched 200 Hz tone. It always responds at the frequency at which it is driven. but proofs are given in the subsequent optional section. i.e. First. When we push at the natural frequency of 1 Hz. We can now generalize to make the following statement. Imagine how hard it would be to hold the child at our own headlevel when she is at the end of her swing! As in the toofast 3 Hz case. Only a very small part of our force goes into counteracting friction. Imagine that a child on a swing has a natural frequency of vibration of 1 Hz. we are not just counteracting friction. although we know the ear has a frequency — about 4000 Hz — at which it would vibrate naturally. which is true for all driven vibrations: 32 Chapter 2 Resonance . Again we intuitively recognize that the amplitude will be very small in proportion to our driving force. and the rest is used in repetitively putting potential energy in on the upswing and taking it back out on the downswing. without any longterm gain. We are also providing an extra force to make the child’s momentum reverse itself more rapidly than it would if gravity and the tension in the chain were the only forces acting. It is as if we are artiﬁcially increasing the k of the swing..02 Hz or about one vibration per minute. The style is approximate and intuitive. we are spending most of our eﬀort in artiﬁcially changing the k of the swing. not at the system’s own natural frequency of vibration. eﬀectively reducing k. however. We are essentially just holding the child in position while very slowly walking back and forth. Now imagine the case in which we drive the child at a very low frequency. the amplitude is less in proportion to the force. we are essentially just pumping energy back into the system to compensate for the loss of energy due to the damping (friction) force. but now rather than reinforcing the gravity and tension forces we are working against them. At 3 Hz. but this is wasted eﬀort because we spend just as much time decelerating the child (taking energy out of the system) as accelerating her (putting energy in). say 0. This is a general fact about driven vibrations: (1) The steadystate response to a sinusoidal driving force occurs at the frequency of the force. but we are going to try to make her swing back and forth at 3 Hz. Now let’s think about the amplitude of the steadystate response.the response of a system to a driving force whose frequency is not necessarily the same as the system’s natural frequency of vibration. We intuitively realize that quite a large force would be needed to achieve an amplitude of even 30 cm. Otherwise all pitches would sound like 4000 Hz to us.
When an earthquake wave comes along. CA. That is. The illfated section of the Nimitz freeway was built on a layer of mud. Collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge example 7 Let’s now examine the more conceptually difﬁcult case of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. during a 1989 earthquake is however a simpler example to analyze.5 Hz. an opera singer must ﬁrst tap the glass to ﬁnd its natural frequency of vibration.S. Unfortunately. Collapse of the Nimitz Freeway in an earthquake example 6 I led off the chapter with the dramatic collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The collapse of a section of the Nimitz Freeway in Oakland. Now all the structures we build are resting on geological layers of dirt. and had a width covering a range from about 1 Hz to 4 Hz. and the bridge responded strongly to the 2. causing sections of it to collapse. an engineering analysis after the quake showed that the overpass itself had a resonant frequency of 2. or rock. An earthquake consists of many lowfrequency vibrations that occur simultaneously. mainly because a it was well documented by a local physics professor.5 Hz as well! The mud responded strongly to the earthquake waves with frequencies close to 2. Geological Survey shows that the mud layer’s resonance was centered on about 2.5 Hz frequency. When the earthquake wave came along with its mixture of frequencies. and analysis by geologist Susan E. sand. The surprise here is that the wind was f / The collapsed section the Nimitz Freeway.5 Hz vibrations of the mud. the topmost layer acts like a system with a certain natural frequency of vibration. which is why it sounds like a rumble of indeterminate pitch rather than a low hum. and then sing the same note back. sort of like a cube of jello on a plate being shaken from side to side. An opera singer breaking a wine glass example 5 In order to break a wineglass by singing. mud.5 Hz. and an unknown person made a movie of the collapse. The resonant frequency of the layer depends on how stiff it is and also on how deep it is. most of the energy is in the form of vibrations in the range of frequencies from about 1 Hz to 10 Hz. The frequencies that we can hear are not even the strongest ones. of Section 2. the mud responded strongly to those that were close to its own natural 2.(2) A vibrating system resonates at its own natural frequency.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations 33 . the amplitude of the steadystate response is greatest in proportion to the amount of driving force when the driving force matches the natural frequency of vibration. Hough of the U.
show that the pattern of vibration of the bridge excited by this mechanism would have been a different one than the one that ﬁnally destroyed the bridge. As long as we’re on the subject of collapsing bridges. and it involved resonance. We see something similar when a ﬂag ﬂaps in the wind. the frequency would be the right one to excite the resonance. It is possible that the collapses had more to do with poor construction and overloading than with resonance. why did it shake the bridge back and forth? The answer is a little complicated. of the kind that you can see in a moving cloud of smoke. and occurred in an era when engineers’ abilities to analyze the vibrations of a complex structure were much more advanced.steady. Many modern engineers and scientists. This backandforth sequence of forces is exactly the kind of periodic driving force that would excite a resonance. As the wind moved over the bridge. and again in 1849 in Anjou. however. relatively weak vibrations. in which its vibrations at its own natural frequency of 0. however. it began acting like a kite or an airplane wing. it emits light waves with certain speciﬁc 34 Chapter 2 Resonance . At just the right velocity. except that the ﬂag’s surface is usually vertical. England.2 Hz set up an alternating pattern of wind gusts in the air immediately around it. Based on ﬁlm footage and afterthefact wind tunnel experiments. which resulted in an up or down force on the bridge. Emission and absorption of light waves by atoms example 8 In a very thin gas. it is worth bringing up the reports of bridges falling down when soldiers marching over them happened to step in rhythm with the bridge’s natural frequency of oscillation. As one of these swirls moved off of the bridge. The faster the wind. The Nimitz Freeway and Tacoma Narrows Bridge are far better documented. Although the vibrations are of a very strange and abstract type described by the theory of quantum mechanics. the more quickly the swirls would get across the bridge. As shown in the ﬁgure. The bridge was probably destroyed by a different mechanism. increasing the amplitude of the vibrations until the bridge ﬁnally collapsed. The windtunnel models. it appears that two different mechanisms were involved. This vicious cycle fed upon itself. there was an abrupt change in air pressure. are suspicious of the analysis of these reports. and the higher the frequency of the driving force would be. France. The ﬁrst mechanism was the one responsible for the initial. they nevertheless obey the same basic rules as ordinary mechanical vibrations. This is supposed to have happened in 1831 in Manchester. which then increased the amplitude of the bridge’s vibrations. When a thin gas made of a certain element is heated. the atoms are sufﬁciently far apart that they can act as individual vibrating systems. it established swirling patterns of air ﬂow around itself. If the wind was blowing at constant velocity.
(A piano has a set of three strings for each note.frequencies.. the steadystate vibrations have an amplitude that is proportional to Q. This means that its resonances are much weaker in amplitude. full (This equation is only a good approximation when Q is large. the gas will absorb light at precisely those frequencies at which it would emit light if heated. all struck by the same hammer.) Why? It is not immediately obvious that there should be any logical relationship between Q and the FWHM. It gives us a way to determine numerically how wide a range of driving frequencies will produce a strong response. i. one with strong damping. a violin’s Q is much lower than a piano’s.) Why would this trick be unlikely to work with a violin? If you have heard the sound of a violin being plucked (the pizzicato effect). As shown in the graph. As with all other vibrations. In other words. dumps its energy faster. Thus if we have a relatively cold gas with light waves of various frequencies passing through it. resulting in loweramplitude steadystate motion. which are like a ﬁngerprint of that element. (4) The FWHM of a resonance is related to its Q and its resonant frequency fres by the equation FWHM = fres Q . what should she look for? Answer. Here’s the idea. 101 Piano strings ringing in sympathy with a sung note example 9 A sufﬁciently loud musical note sung near a piano with the lid raised can cause the corresponding strings in the piano to vibrate. p. g / The deﬁnition of the width at half maximum. A lowQ oscillator.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations 35 . As Section 2. you know that the note dies away very quickly. The steadystate behavior is an equilibrium between energy input from the driving force and energy loss due to damping.e. resonances do not suddenly fall oﬀ to zero outside a certain frequency range. Our fourth and ﬁnal fact about resonance is perhaps the most surprising. It is usual to describe the width of a resonance by its full width at halfmaximum (FWHM) as illustrated in ﬁgure g. This is fairly intuitive. selfcheck C If an opera singer is shopping for a wine glass that she can impress her friends by breaking. these atomic vibrations respond most strongly to a driving force that matches their own natural frequency. (3) When a system is driven at resonance.
and we can waste quite a bit of driving force on changing k before it becomes comparable to the damping force. the halfmaximum points on the graph correspond to the places where the amount of the driving force being wasted in this way is the same as the amount of driving force being used productively to replace the energy being dumped out by the damping force. FWHM / fr es = 0. the reason why the response of an oscillator is smaller away from resonance is that much of the driving force is being used to make the system act as if it had a diﬀerent k. If the pitch can be altered by about 5% up or down (about one musical halfstep) without too much effort. If. change the pitch signiﬁcantly by altering the tightness of her lips. so the full width is about 10%. the horn will continue sounding for about 10 cycles before its energy falls off by a factor of 535. “Legit. This corresponds to driving the horn slightly off of resonance.” i.e. i.) Decay of a saxophone tone example 11 If a typical saxophone setup has a Q of about 10. classically oriented players.e. (Blues and jazz saxophone players will typically choose a mouthpiece that has a low Q. What is its Q? 36 Chapter 2 Resonance . This is why a saxophone note doesn’t “ring” like a note played on a piano or an electric guitar. Ten cycles at a frequency of 100 Hz would correspond to a time of 0.1 seconds. Roughly speaking. roughly what is the Q of a saxophone? Five percent is the width on one side of the resonance. This implies a Q of about 10. If the damping force is strong. however. which is not very long. after the player suddenly stops blowing? A Q of 10 means that it takes 10 cycles for the vibrations to die down in energy by a factor of 535. and we cannot get very far from the resonant frequency before the two are comparable. use a higherQ setup because their style only calls for enough pitch variation to produce a vibrato.1 MHz for signals at about 100 MHz.1. Q of a radio receiver example 12 A radio receiver used in the FM band needs to be tuned in to within about 0. so that they can produce the bluesy pitchslides typical of their style. then even a small amount of force being wasted on changing k will become signiﬁcant in proportion. how long will it take for a 100Hz tone played on a baritone saxophone to die down by a factor of 535 in energy. on the other hand.we have seen already. which gives the saxophone a certain resonant frequency. Changing the pitch of a wind instrument example 10 A saxophone player normally selects which note to play by choosing a certain ﬁngering. The musician can also. then a large amount of force is needed to counteract it... once the musician stops blowing. the damping force is weak.
electrically charged particles: its own electron. Section 2. and the planet earth is a big magnet. The magnetic forces between them tend to bring the needle to an equilibrium position in which it lines up with the planetearthmagnet. h/2. The principle identical to that of an electromagnet. it acts like a damped oscillator of the type we have been discussing. it takes some time to settle down. These neighbors act like magnets. 2. the nuclei being referred to are simply the nonradioactive nuclei of atoms found naturally in your body. Your body contains large numbers of hydrogen atoms. which consists of a coil of wire through which electrical charges pass. This is an extremely high Q compared to most mechanical systems. h/1. the circling motion of the charges in the coil of wire makes it magnetic. The orientation of a proton’s spin vibrates around its equilibrium direction under the inﬂuence of the magnetic forces coming from the surrounding electrons and nuclei. The NMR apparatus bombards the sample with radio waves. Here’s how NMR works. Depending on the structure of the molecule in which the hydrogen atom ﬁnds itself. based on magnetic resonance data. The compass needle is simply a small magnet.Q = fr es /FWHM = 1000. Now a proton in one of your body’s hydrogen atoms ﬁnds itself surrounded by many other whirling. Q of a stereo speaker example 13 We have already given one reason why a stereo speaker should have a low Q: otherwise it would continue ringing after the end of the musical note on the recording. A compass needle vibrates about the equilibrium position under the inﬂuence of the earth’s magnetic forces. and exert magnetic forces on the proton. they will actually tell you you are undergoing “magnetic resonance imaging” or “MRI. lightweight electron orbiting around a large. j / A threedimensional computer reconstruction of the shape of a human brain. the proton will absorb radiowave energy strongly and oscillate h / Example 14. NMR is a technique used to deduce the molecular structure of unknown chemical substances.3 Putting Energy Into Vibrations 37 . there will be a particular set of magnetic forces acting on the proton and a particular value of k . the circling motion of the proton’s charge makes it magnetic. If you ever have an NMR scan. Essentially the same physics lies behind the technique called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). heavy proton. plus the electrons and nuclei of the other nearby atoms. and in the same way. and the combination of its spin and its electrical charge cause it to behave like a tiny magnet. That is. A proton is always spinning on its own axis. As it settles down. each consisting of a small. and if the frequency of the radio waves matches the resonant frequency of the proton. the nucleus of a hydrogen atom is just one proton. and it is also used for making medical images of the inside of people’s bodies. you have undoubtedly noticed that if you shake it. The second reason is that we want it to be able to respond to a large range of frequencies.” because people are scared of the word “nuclear. 1.” In fact. The k of the vibrating proton is simply a measure of the total strength of these magnetic forces. Nuclear magnetic resonance example 14 If you have ever played with a magnetic compass. who turned out to be healthy. i / A member of the author’s family.
we make use of the fact that a sinusoidal vibration is the same as the projection of circular motion onto a line. I could feel the beam trembling. allowing medical images to be made. has a tangential component Ft  which counteracts the m / Driving at a below resonance. [If] I had kept on ten minutes more. and attached it to one of the steel beams of a building that was under construction in New York. I could have laid that building ﬂat in the street. of the vibrations as seen edgeon. Finally. We visualize the system shown in ﬁgures km. he presumably claimed to have tuned it to the resonant frequency of the building. . By working backward through this chain of reasoning.. and the steelworkers came to the ground panicstricken. Discussion Question A Nikola Tesla. the structure began to creak and weave. He built an electric vibrator that ﬁt in his pocket. but it appears to from the ﬂattened perspective of a person viewing the system edgeon. frequency 38 Chapter 2 Resonance . Although the article in which he was quoted didn’t say so. The radius of the circle is the amplitude. The spring does not actually change its length at all.4 Proofs l / Driving at resonance.” Is this physically plausible? k / Driving at a frequency above resonance. Gradually the trembling increased in intensity and extended throughout the whole great mass of steel. we assume that the damping is proportional to velocity. The driving force. we will then prove statements 2. however. It is also possible to locate atoms in space. and 4 from the previous section. It is impressive. and we use the symbol b for the proportionality constant. represented by a hand towing the mass with a string. 3. As usual. “In a few minutes. that the steadystate motion occurs at the same frequency as the driving force..wildly. The damping force can be imagined as a backward drag force supplied by some ﬂuid through which the mass is moving. because there is no friction inside an atom. A. Its vibrations are of the strange and spooky kind described by the laws of quantum mechanics. Finally. Its vibrations are damped not by friction. told a credulous reporter the following story about an application of resonance. 2. Fd  = bv. but by the reemission of radio waves. one can determine the geometric arrangement of the hydrogen atom’s neighboring atoms. believing that there had been an earthquake. Our ﬁrst goal is to predict the amplitude of the steadystate vibrations as a function of the frequency of the driving force and the amplitude of the driving force. it should be noted that the behavior of the proton cannot be described entirely correctly by Newtonian physics. With that equation in hand. We assume without proof statement 1. one of the inventors of radio and an archetypical mad scientist. in which the mass swings in a circle on the end of a spring. As with the proof in chapter 1. that the few simple ideas we have learned about resonance can still be applied successfully to describe many aspects of this exotic system.
Section 2. Statement 2: maximum amplitude at resonance Equation 4 shows directly that the amplitude is maximized when the system is driven at its resonant frequency. it is easily proven that [3] Ft = F 1+ Fr Ft 2 . and Newton’s second law gives a = F/m = 1 (kA + Fr )/m. At resonance. Ft  = Fd . From now on. which makes the second term smaller. This is the ratio of the wasted force to the useful force. and we see that it becomes zero when the system is driven at resonance. causing the amplitude to be as big as possible. so the amplitude at resonance is proportional to Q.) Statement 3: amplitude at resonance proportional to Q Equation 4 shows that the amplitude at resonance is proportional to 1/b. and the Q of the system is inversely proportional to b. and this makes the denominator as small as possible. (Actually this is only approximately true. depending on whether we are driving the system above or below its resonant frequency. (3) and equations 13 can then be combined to give the ﬁnal result [4] A= 2π F 2 4π 2 m2 (f 2 − fres )2 + b2 f 2 . The amplitude of the vibrations can be found by attacking the equation Ft  = bv = 2πbAf . This technical issue is addressed in homework problem 3 on page 43. Straightforward algebra yields [1] 2πm 2 Fr 2 = f − fres Ft bf . v = 2πA/T . the ﬁrst term inside the square root vanishes.4 Proofs 39 . we wish to know the amplitude in terms of —F—. With the Pythagorean theorem.(2) However.damping force. The speed of the rotating mass is the circumference of the circle divided by the period. which gives [2] A= Ft  2πbf . not Ft . its acceleration (which is directly inward) is a = v 2 /r. and a radial component Fr which works either with or against the spring’s force. let’s drop the cumbersome magnitude symbols. We write fres for 2π k/m. because it is possible to make A a little bigger by decreasing f a little below fres .
to the inverse of the quantity inside the square root in equation 4.) We therefore ﬁnd that Q is proportional to k/bfres . and the latter is proportional to the force. Thus. i. 2πm We wish to connect this to Q. A.Statement 4: FWHM related to Q We will satisfy ourselves by proving only the proportionality F W HM ∝ fres /Q. The former equals kA2 /2. which can be interpreted as the energy of the free (undriven) vibrations divided by the work done by damping in one cycle. (This is only a proportionality. since the force is not constant. multiplied by the distance traveled.e. The energy is proportional to A2 . so f and fres can be taken as synonyms. 40 Chapter 2 Resonance . At the halfmaximum points. we have f − 2 2 fres = FWHM fres ± 2 2 2 − fres 1 = ±fres · FWHM + FWHM2 4 If we assume that the width of the resonance is small compared to the resonant frequency. We are assuming that the width of the resonance is small compared to the resonant frequency. not the actual equation F W HM = fres /Q. then the FWHM2 term is negligible compared to the fres · FWHM term.e. not an equation. b FWHM = . At resonance. i. and setting the terms in equation 4 equal to each other gives 4π 2 m2 (fres FWHM)2 = b2 f 2 . The equation for the FWHM can then be restated as a proportionality FWHM ∝ k/Qfres m ∝ fres /Q.. and the halfmaximum points occur at frequencies for which the whole quantity inside the square root is double its value at resonance. when the two terms are equal.. the ﬁrst term inside the square root vanishes. bv ∝ bAfres .
or the frictional force that causes the loss of energy quality factor . the behavior of a vibrating system after it has had plenty of time to settle into a steady response to a driving force Notation Q . . i. The following are four important facts about a vibrating system being driven by an external force: (1) The steadystate response to a sinusoidal driving force occurs at the frequency of the force. . When a vibrating system is driven by an external force. This eﬀect.e. . . . . . . .Summary Selected Vocabulary damping . Summary The energy of a vibration is always proportional to the square of the amplitude. . . the tendency of a vibrating system to respond most strongly to a driving force whose frequency is close to its own natural frequency of vibration steady state . .. . which in the case of a driven system is equal to the frequency of the driving force. . Summary 41 . assuming the amplitude is small. called damping. . . . an external force that pumps energy into a vibrating system resonance .e. its behavior after it has had time to settle into a steady response to a driving force. . i. . will cause the vibrations to decay exponentially unless energy is pumped into the system to replace the loss. . In the steady state. the number of oscillations required for a system’s energy to fall oﬀ by a factor of 535 due to damping driving force . . . fres . we are usually interested in its steadystate behavior. the quality factor the natural (resonant) frequency of a vibrating system. . the same amount of energy is pumped into the system during each cycle as is lost to damping during the same period. . . . the dissipation of a vibration’s energy into heat energy. . . the frequency at which it would vibrate if it was simply kicked and left alone the frequency at which the system actually vibrates. . . .. not the natural frequency f . . . . Energy is lost from a vibrating system for various reasons such as the conversion to heat via friction or the emission of sound. A driving force that pumps energy into the system may drive the system at its own natural frequency or at some other frequency. . . not at the system’s own natural frequency of vibration.
the amplitude of the steadystate response is greatest in proportion to the amount of driving force when the driving force matches the natural frequency of vibration.) 42 Chapter 2 Resonance . (4) The FWHM of a resonance is related to its Q and its resonant frequency fres by the equation FWHM = fres . Q (This equation is only a good approximation when Q is large. (3) When a system is driven at resonance.(2) A vibrating system resonates at its own natural frequency. the steadystate vibrations have an amplitude that is proportional to Q. That is.
4. A problem that requires calculus. the actual resonant frequency. For a typical ﬁsh having such an anatomy. we should actually deﬁne two diﬀerent symbols. the bladder has a resonant frequency of 300 Hz. the amplitude as a function of frequency is A= 2π F 2 4π 2 m2 f 2 − f0 2 . In this notation. f0 = (1/2π) k/m and fres for the slightly diﬀerent frequency at which the amplitude is a maximum. it is only approximately true that the amplitude has its maximum at f = (1/2π) k/m. however. Over what range of frequencies would the ampliﬁcation be at least a factor of 50? 3 As noted in section 2. and the maximum ampliﬁcation is about a factor of 100 in energy. A diﬃcult problem. an airﬁlled cavity whose main purpose is to control the ﬁsh’s buoyancy an allow it to keep from rising or sinking without having to use its muscles. the swim bladder (or a small extension of it) is linked to the ear and serves the additional purpose of amplifying sound waves.Problems Key √ A computerized answer check is available online. the bladder’s Q is 3. 1 If one stereo system is capable of producing 20 watts of sound power and another can put out 50 watts. Problems 43 . i.. + b2 f 2 Show that the maximum occurs not at fo but rather at the frequency fres = 2 f0 − b2 = 8π 2 m2 1 2 f0 − FWHM2 2 Hint: Finding the frequency that minimizes the quantity inside the square root is equivalent to.) 2 Many ﬁsh have an organ known as a swim bladder.e. how many times greater is the amplitude of the sound wave that can be created by the more powerful system? (Assume they are playing the same music. but much easier than. In some ﬁsh. Being more careful. ﬁnding the frequency that maximizes the amplitude.
.. Find the fraction of the original energy E that remains in the oscillations after n cycles of motion. (a) Show that the work done by a damping force F = −bv over one cycle of steadystate motion equals Wdamp = −2π 2 bf A2 . so the vibrations damp out quickly. (c) Use the previous result. to prove that the constant of proportionality equals 1. the spider thread has an unusual set of properties: 1. i. Panel 3 shows a graph of such an oscillation. i.e. 44 Chapter 2 Resonance . not a swinging motion like a pendulum. a spider is hanging from such a thread. 6 The ﬁgure is from Shape memory in Spider draglines.1 g mass hung from it in place of a spider. Problem 6. and then double it. (We’re referring to a backandforth rotation about the axis of the thread. and it also seems to me that it would be a bad thing just because the spider wouldn’t be able to control its orientation and do what it was trying to do. combined with the result of problem 4. (b) From this. which the authors measured using a video camera and a computer. Panel 1 shows an electron microscope’s image of a thread of spider silk.4 to prove the equation FWHM = fres /Q. Emile. (Hint: Use the approximation ln(1 + x) ≈ x. In 2.) 5 The goal of this problem is to reﬁne the proportionality FWHM ∝ fres /Q into the equation FWHM = fres /Q. Compared to humanmade ﬁbers such as kevlar or copper wire. it’s probably a bad thing for the spider if it twists back and forth while hanging like this. (b) Show that the fraction of the undriven oscillator’s energy lost to damping over one cycle is Wdamp /E = 4π 2 bf /k. (c) Use this to prove the approximation 1/Q ≈ (1/2π)W/E. and Vollrath.e. Nature 440:621 (2006). Hint: It is less confusing to calculate the work done over half a cycle. prove the equation 1− W E Q = e−2π (recalling that the number 535 in the deﬁnition of Q is e2π ).4 (a) Let W be the amount of work done by friction in the ﬁrst cycle of oscillation. Le Floch. to prove that Q equals k/2πbf . (d) Combine the preceding result for Q with the equation FWHM = b/2πm from section 2. the amount of energy lost to heat. from x = −A to x = +A. which is valid for small values of x. It has a low Q. From an evolutionary point of view. with a 0.) The authors speculate that such a vibration could make the spider easier for predators to see.
You can see this in panel 2. 4. It doesn’t become brittle with repeated twisting as a copper wire would. the thread only performed oscillations with an amplitude much smaller than ±35 degrees. When twisted. rather than insisting on returning to its original angle. it tends to settle in to a new equilibrium angle. Over much longer time scales (hours). because although the experimenters initially twisted the wire by 33 degrees. settling down to a new equilibrium at 27 degrees. estimate the Q of spider silk from the graph. (The graph reproduced here only shows the motion over a much shorter time scale.2. 3.) Some humanmade materials have this “memory” property as well. but they typically need to be heated in order to make them go back to their original shapes. Problems 45 . Focusing on property number 1. the thread eventually resets itself to its original equilbrium angle (shown as zero degrees on the graph).
46 Chapter 2 Resonance .
but being able to vibrate wouldn’t be of much use unless the vibrations could be transmitted to the listener’s ear by sound waves. This type of wave motion is the topic of the present chapter. 2. in much the same way that a ball would bounce oﬀ of a wall. Instead. and the process of ﬂattening out occurs over a long period of time.g. You will have noticed two results that are surprising to most people. First.” by Katsushika Hokusai (17601849). left behind by your ﬁnger has sloping sides. you have found that the ripples bounce oﬀ of the walls of the cup. Until then. (a). In the next chapter we discuss what happens to waves that have a boundary around them. initially has a / Dipping a ﬁnger in some water. ripples spread out. and the water next to the crater ﬂows downhill to ﬁll in the hole. we conﬁne ourselves to wave phenomena that can be analyzed as if the medium (e. It isn’t hard to understand why removing your ﬁngertip creates ripples rather than simply allowing the water to sink back down uniformly. 1. causes a disturbance that spreads outward. 47 .“The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. The initial crater. during which the water at the center vibrates above and below the normal water level. the ﬂat surface of the water does not simply sink uniformly to ﬁll in the volume vacated by your ﬁnger. Second. What are waves and why do they exist? Put your ﬁngertip in the middle of a cup of water and then remove it suddenly.. the water) was inﬁnite and the same everywhere. on the other hand. Chapter 3 Free Waves Your vocal cords or a saxophone reed can vibrate. The water far away.
so a depressed “moat” is formed. because there is no slope for it to ﬂow down. producing ripples. As the hole ﬁlls up. and overshoots. This eﬀect cascades outward. 48 Chapter 3 Free Waves . (b).no way of knowing what has happened. creating a little hill where there had been a hole originally. The area just outside of this region has been robbed of some of its water in order to build the hill. the rising water at the center gains upward momentum.
This additive rule is referred to as the principle of superposition. 1. then they combine to make an extradeep 6 cm trough. 3. Where the two waves coincide.1 Wave Motion 49 .1 Wave Motion There are three main ways in which wave motion diﬀers from the motion of objects made of matter. Superposition The most profound diﬀerence is that waves do not display have anything analogous to the normal forces between objects that come in contact. The ﬁgures on the following page show superposition of wave pulses. each wave would have had a crest 3 cm above the normal water level. and when this happens they combine by addition. We use negative numbers to represent depressions in the water. as shown in ﬁgure b. Two wave patterns can therefore overlap in the same region of space. Unlike material objects. suppose that at a certain location in at a certain moment in time. If you hit a clothesline sharply. If both waves would have had a troughs measuring 3 cm. This is analogous to Section 3.” Superposition can occur not just with sinusoidal waves like the ones in the ﬁgure above but with waves of any shape. wave patterns can overlap in space. i.. For instance. A +3 cm crest and a 3 cm trough result in a height of zero. The waves combine at this point to make a 6cm crest. they add together.b / The two circular patterns of ripples pass through each other. the waves momentarily cancel each other out at that point. These pulses consist only of a single hump or trough. “superposition” being merely a fancy word for “adding. A pulse is simply a wave of very short duration. you will observe pulses heading oﬀ in both directions.e.
The same occurs when the hammer on a piano comes up and hits a string. the ﬁfth frame shows the spring just about perfectly ﬂat. 50 Chapter 3 Free Waves . Experiments to date have not shown any deviation from the principle of superposition in the case of light waves. A pulse travels to the left. For other types of waves.the way ripples spread out in all directions when you make a disturbance at one point on water. it is typically a very good approximation for lowenergy waves. 2. one end of the spring was shaken by hand. then why does the motion pick up again? Why doesn’t the spring just stay ﬂat? c / These pictures show the motion of wave pulses along a spring. 1. Discussion Question A In ﬁgure c/3. If the two pulses have essentially canceled each other out perfectly. and a series of frame chosen to show the motion. Movies were ﬁlmed. one positive and one negative. Superposition of two colliding positive pulses. Superposition of two colliding pulses. To make a pulse. 3.
2. moves to the left. not to the right. The motion of the wave pattern is to the right. having just passed the duck (middle) and having progressed about a meter beyond the duck (right). Figure d shows a series of water waves before it has reached a rubber duck (left). The water isn’t moving forward with the wave.d / As the wave pattern passes the rubber duck. This shows that the water itself does not ﬂow outward with the wave. e / As the wave pulse goes by. Section 3. we could empty one end of a swimming pool simply by kicking up waves! We must distinguish between the motion of the medium (water in this case) and the motion of the wave pattern through the medium. If it did. 101 A worm example 1 The worm in the ﬁgure is moving to the right. but is not carried along with the wave. but the medium (spring) is moving up and down. At a certain instant. The medium is not transported with the wave. do any parts of the spring have zero velocity? Answer. you can detect the sidetoside motion of the spring because the spring appears blurry. the duck stays put. how would you describe the motion of the different parts of the spring? Other than the ﬂat parts. p. selfcheck A In ﬁgure e. the ribbon tied to the spring is not carried along. In other words. a pulse consisting of a compressed area of its body. the motion of the wave pattern is in the opposite direction compared to the motion of the medium. The duck bobs around its initial position. The medium vibrates. represented by a single photo. The wave pattern. the wave progresses through space.1 Wave Motion 51 .
f / Example 2. The surfer is dragging his hand in the water.
Surﬁng example 2 The incorrect belief that the medium moves with the wave is often reinforced by garbled secondhand knowledge of surﬁng. Anyone who has actually surfed knows that the front of the board pushes the water to the sides, creating a wake — the surfer can even drag his hand through the water, as in in ﬁgure f. If the water was moving along with the wave and the surfer, this wouldn’t happen. The surfer is carried forward because forward is downhill, not because of any forward ﬂow of the water. If the water was ﬂowing forward, then a person ﬂoating in the water up to her neck would be carried along just as quickly as someone on a surfboard. In fact, it is even possible to surf down the back side of a wave, although the ride wouldn’t last very long because the surfer and the wave would quickly part company. 3. A wave’s velocity depends on the medium. A material object can move with any velocity, and can be sped up or slowed down by a force that increases or decreases its kinetic energy. Not so with waves. The magnitude of a wave’s velocity depends on the properties of the medium (and perhaps also on the shape of the wave, for certain types of waves). Sound waves travel at about 340 m/s in air, 1000 m/s in helium. If you kick up water waves in a pool, you will ﬁnd that kicking harder makes waves that are taller (and therefore carry more energy), not faster. The sound waves from an exploding stick of dynamite carry a lot of energy, but are no faster than any other waves. Thus although both waves and physical objects carry energy as they move through space, the energy of the wave relates to its amplitude, not to its speed. In the following section we will give an example of the physical relationship between the wave speed and the properties of the medium. Breaking waves example 3 The velocity of water waves increases with depth. The crest of a wave travels faster than the trough, and this can cause the wave to break. Once a wave is created, the only reason its speed will change is if it enters a diﬀerent medium or if the properties of the medium change. It is not so surprising that a change in medium can slow down a wave, but the reverse can also happen. A sound wave traveling through a helium balloon will slow down when it emerges into the air, but if it enters another balloon it will speed back up again! Similarly, water waves travel more quickly over deeper water, so a wave will slow down as it passes over an underwater ridge, but speed
g / Example wave.
3:
a
breaking
h / Example 4. The boat has run up against a limit on its speed because it can’t climb over its own wave. Dolphins get around the problem by leaping out of the water.
52
Chapter 3
Free Waves
up again as it emerges into deeper water. Hull speed example 4 The speeds of most boats, and of some surfaceswimming animals, are limited by the fact that they make a wave due to their motion through the water. The boat in ﬁgure h is going at the same speed as its own waves, and can’t go any faster. No matter how hard the boat pushes against the water, it can’t make the wave move ahead faster and get out of the way. The wave’s speed depends only on the medium. Adding energy to the wave doesn’t speed it up, it just increases its amplitude. A water wave, unlike many other types of wave, has a speed that depends on its shape: a broader wave moves faster. The shape of the wave made by a boat tends to mold itself to the shape of the boat’s hull, so a boat with a longer hull makes a broader wave that moves faster. The maximum speed of a boat whose speed is limited by this effect is therefore closely related to the length of its hull, and the maximum speed is called the hull speed. Sailboats designed for racing are not just long and skinny to make them more streamlined — they are also long so that their hull speeds will be high. Wave patterns If the magnitude of a wave’s velocity vector is preordained, what about its direction? Waves spread out in all directions from every point on the disturbance that created them. If the disturbance is small, we may consider it as a single point, and in the case of water waves the resulting wave pattern is the familiar circular ripple, i/1. If, on the other hand, we lay a pole on the surface of the water and wiggle it up and down, we create a linear wave pattern, i/2. For a threedimensional wave such as a sound wave, the analogous patterns would be spherical waves and plane waves, j. Inﬁnitely many patterns are possible, but linear or plane waves are often the simplest to analyze, because the velocity vector is in the same direction no matter what part of the wave we look at. Since all the velocity vectors are parallel to one another, the problem is eﬀectively onedimensional. Throughout this chapter and the next, we will restrict ourselves mainly to wave motion in one dimension, while not hesitating to broaden our horizons when it can be done without too much complication.
i / Circular patterns. and linear wave
j / Plane and patterns.
spherical
wave
Section 3.1
Wave Motion
53
Discussion Questions
A [see above] B Sketch two positive wave pulses on a string that are overlapping but not right on top of each other, and draw their superposition. Do the same for a positive pulse running into a negative pulse. C A traveling wave pulse is moving to the right on a string. Sketch the velocity vectors of the various parts of the string. Now do the same for a pulse moving to the left. D In a spherical sound wave spreading out from a point, how would the energy of the wave fall off with distance? k / Hitting a key on a piano causes a hammer to come up from underneath and hit a string (actually a set of three strings). The result is a pair of pulses moving away from the point of impact.
3.2 Waves on a String
So far you have learned some counterintuitive things about the behavior of waves, but intuition can be trained. The ﬁrst half of this section aims to build your intuition by investigating a simple, onedimensional type of wave: a wave on a string. If you have ever stretched a string between the bottoms of two openmouthed cans to talk to a friend, you were putting this type of wave to work. Stringed instruments are another good example. Although we usually think of a piano wire simply as vibrating, the hammer actually strikes it quickly and makes a dent in it, which then ripples out in both directions. Since this chapter is about free waves, not bounded ones, we pretend that our string is inﬁnitely long. After the qualitative discussion, we will use simple approximations to investigate the speed of a wave pulse on a string. This quick and dirty treatment is then followed by a rigorous attack using the methods of calculus, which may be skipped by the student who has not studied calculus. How far you penetrate in this section is up to you, and depends on your mathematical selfconﬁdence. If you skip the later parts and proceed to the next section, you should nevertheless be aware of the important result that the speed at which a pulse moves does not depend on the size or shape of the pulse. This is a fact that is true for many other types of waves. Intuitive ideas Consider a string that has been struck, l/1, resulting in the creation of two wave pulses, 2, one traveling to the left and one to the right. This is analogous to the way ripples spread out in all directions from a splash in water, but on a onedimensional string, “all directions” becomes “both directions.” We can gain insight by modeling the string as a series of masses connected by springs. (In the actual string the mass and the springiness are both contributed by the molecules themselves.) If we look at various microscopic portions of the string, there will be some areas that are ﬂat, m/1, some that are sloping but not curved, 2, and some that are curved, 3 and 4. In example 1 it is clear that both the
l / A string is struck with a hammer, 1, and two pulses ﬂy off, 2.
m / A continuous string can be modeled as a series of discrete masses connected by springs.
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Chapter 3
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at the edges of the triangle. Note. so it is here that there will be large forces that do not cancel out to zero. The same is true of 2. Dividing the triangle into two right triangles. T . As always. The properties of the string can be summarized by two variables: the tension. in this case the string. and the mass per unit length. There are two forces acting on the triangular hump. then this object has a mass of approximately µw (mass/length × length = mass). Of course the tip of the triangle has a longer distance to travel than the edges. the time interval between n/1 and 2 is the amount of time required for the initial dent to accelerate from rest and reach its normal. the velocity of a wave depends on the properties of the medium. we assume that h is much less than w. Section 3. Since h is much less than w. n/1. Indeed. however. we imagine a hammer blow that creates a triangular dent. the vector sum of the two forces acting on the central mass is not zero. The important concept is that curvature makes force: the curved areas of a wave tend to experience forces resulting in an acceleration toward the mouth of the curve.e. it might seem surprising that the triangle would so neatly spring back to a perfectly ﬂat shape. In these examples. It may move at constant velocity to either side. Approximate treatment We now carry out an approximate treatment of the speed at which two pulses will spread out from an initial indentation on a string. however. and one of the same magnitude acting down and to the left. If the angle of the sloping sides is θ. so it will not accelerate. It is an experimental fact that it does. Only in curved regions such as 3 and 4 is an acceleration produced. If we consider the part of the string encompassed by the initial dent as a single object.2 Waves on a String 55 . we see that sin θ equals h divided by the length of one of the sloping sides. The string is kinked. that an uncurved portion of the string need not remain motionless. required until each of the pulses has traveled a distance equal to the width of the pulse itself. For simplicity. Roughly speaking. but again we ignore the complications and simply assume that the segment as a whole must travel a distance h.forces on the central mass cancel out. and throughout the derivation. one of magnitude T acting down and to the right. tightly curved. so that we can ignore the fact that this segment of the string has a length slightly greater than w. then the total force on the segment equals 2T sin θ.. ﬂattened position. i. (Here.) Although the downward acceleration of this segment of the string will be neither constant over time nor uniform across the string. µ (Greek letter mu). but our analysis is too crude to address such details. t. we will pretend that it is constant for the sake of our simple estimate. We will estimate the amount of time. the length of the sloping side is essentially n / A triangular pulse spreads out. The velocity of the pulses is then ±w/t.
It comes from the assumption that the acceleration was constant. Rigorous derivation using calculus (optional) After expending considerable eﬀort for an approximate solution. It is an experimental fact (and we will also prove rigorously in the following subsection) that any pulse of any kind. when actually the total force on the segment would diminish as it ﬂattened out.the same as w/2. The reason for our toohigh value for the velocity is not hard to guess. we now display the power of calculus with a rigorous and completely general treatment that is nevertheless much shorter and easier. i. a function of two variables. The importance of the above derivation lies in the insight it brings —that all pulses move with the same speed — rather than in the details of the numerical result. The acceleration of the segment (actually the acceleration of its center of mass) is a = F/m = 4T h/µw2 . t). Of course. so that y measures how far a point on the string is from equilibrium.e.. Let the ﬂat position of the string deﬁne the x axis. Knowing that the force on any small segment of string depends 56 Chapter 3 Free Waves . The motion of the string is characterized by y(x. any triangular pulse has the same speed. The remarkable feature of this result is that the velocity of the pulses does not depend at all on w or h. The time required to move a distance h under constant acceleration a is found by solving h = 1 at2 to yield 2 t= 2h a µ =w 2T . travels along the string at the same speed. Our ﬁnal result for the velocity of the pulses is v = = w t 2T µ . triangular or otherwise. The correct result for the velocity of the pulses is v= T µ . so we have sin θ = h/w. and F = 4T h/w. after so many approximations we cannot expect to have gotten all the numerical factors right.
where f is any function of one variable. In general. we note that it already proves the principle of superposition. This is no more than a fancy mathematical statement of the intuitive fact developed above. Based on experiment. dx (This can be proved by vector addition of the two inﬁnitesimal forces acting on either side. Evaluating the second derivatives on both sides of the equation gives (±v)2 f = T f µ . 3. t) that describes a pulse or wave pattern moving to the left or right at the correct speed v. Sounds do not knock other sounds out of the way when they collide. The second derivative with respect to time is related to the second derivative with respect to position.3 Sound and Light Waves 57 . or. provided that v is given by v= T µ . each derivative with respect to time brings out a factor of ±v. and that the second derivative is a measure of curvature. Because of the chain rule. it is not surprising to ﬁnd that the inﬁnitesimal force dF acting on an inﬁnitesimal segment dx is given by d2 y dF = T 2 dx .on the curvature of the string in that area. Squaring gets rid of the sign. because the derivative of a sum is the sum of the derivatives. Before even bothering to look for solutions to this equation. Section 3.) The acceleration is then a = dF/dm. and we ﬁnd that we have a valid solution for any function f .3 Sound and Light Waves Sound waves The phenomenon of sound is easily found to have all the characteristics we expect from a wave phenomenon: • Sound waves obey superposition. Therefore the sum of any two solutions will also be a solution. substituting dm = µdx. and we can hear more than one sound at once if they both reach our ear simultaneously. that the string accelerates so as to ﬂatten out its curves. we expect that this equation will be satisﬁed by any function y(x. d2 y T d2 y = dt2 µ dx2 . such a function will be of the form y = f (x − vt) or y = f (x + vt).
but scientiﬁcally wrong. we typically do it by creating vibrations of a physical object. if we want to create a sound wave. so it is possible for sounds waves to travel through it. because the delay is the same for every sound. rather than sideways vibrations like the shimmying of a snake. which vibrates in the direction perpendicular to the direction in which the wave pattern moves. 1 Outer space is not a perfect vacuum. regardless of their diﬀering wave shapes. the reed of a saxophone. An isolated tuning fork. If sound has all the properties we expect from a wave.1 We can also tell that sound waves consist of compressions and expansions. would dissipate the energy of its vibration into internal heat at a rate many orders of magnitude greater than the rate of sound emission into the nearly perfect vacuum around it. a sound wave is a longitudinal wave. Only compressional vibrations would be able to cause your eardrums to vibrate in and out.. For instance. or a speaker cone. the less eﬃciently the energy can be converted into sound and carried away. such as the sounding board of a guitar. not faster. ﬂat wall. Even for a very loud sound. The lower the density of the surrounding medium. Even standing in front of a titanic speaker playing earsplitting music. left to vibrate in interstellar space.e. sound does nevertheless have this property. and faster in water than in helium. the increase or decrease compared to normal atmospheric pressure is no more than a part per million. For example. Bass. and the delay of the echo is no shorter for a louder clap. The roars and whooshes of Hollywood’s space ships are fun. Our ears are apparently very sensitive receivers! Unlike a wave on a string. you can easily detect an echo when you clap your hands a short distance from a large. then what type of wave is it? It must be a vibration of a physical medium such as air. However. i. such as helium or water. and this property therefore is irrelevant to our collection of evidence that sound is a wave phenomenon. Although not all waves have a speed that is independent of the shape of the wave. but we do not notice or care. Putting more energy into the wave makes it more intense. Further evidence is that we don’t receive sound signals that have come to our planet through outer space. drums. Sound travels faster in helium than in air. we do not feel the slightest breeze. and vocals all head outward from the stage at 340 m/s.• The medium does not move with the sound. 58 Chapter 3 Free Waves . one in which the vibration is forward and backward along the direction of motion. the music in a large concert hall or stadium may take on the order of a second to reach someone seated in the nosebleed section. the compression is extremely weak. • The velocity of sound depends on the medium. since the speed of sound is diﬀerent in diﬀerent media.
The wave theory of light was entirely successful up until the 20th century. and collisions therefore very infrequent. very delicate experiments have shown that there is no dimming. two intersecting beams of light should experience at least some disruption because of collisions between their corpuscles. but light from the stars travels happily through zillions of miles of empty space. the study of matter. Instead. we will content ourselves with the wave theory of light.. For a long time.3 Sound and Light Waves 59 . If light is a wave. The details of the story are more ﬁttingly reserved for later in this course.e. The belief that matter was made of atoms was stylish at the time among radical thinkers (although there was no experimental evidence for their existence). and they called it the aether (not to be confused with the chemical). One persuasive proof that light is a wave is that according to Newton’s theory. which he called corpuscles (Latin for “small objects”). from cameras to rainbows. what is waving? What is the medium that wiggles when a light wave goes by? It isn’t air. when it was discovered that not all the phenomena of light could be explained with a pure wave theory. For now. It is interesting to note that Isaac Newton very inﬂuentially advocated a contrary idea about light. light can be explained as a wave pattern made up of electrical and magnetic ﬁelds. which is capable of explaining a great many things. physicists assumed that there must be a mysterious medium for light waves. Supposedly the aether existed everywhere in space. brought him such great prestige that nobody bothered to question his incorrect theory of light for 150 years.Light waves Entirely similar observations lead us to believe that light is a wave. Light bulbs have no air inside them. and it seemed logical to Newton that light as well should be made of tiny particles. In fact. at least some dimming should have been measurable. A vacuum is impenetrable to sound. It is now believed that both light and matter are made out of tiny chunks which have both wave and particle properties. i. but that doesn’t prevent the light waves from leaving the ﬁlament. but the end result was that a long series of experiments failed to detect any evidence for the aether. Even if the corpuscles were extremely small. and it is no longer believed to exist. Section 3. although the concept of light as a wave had a long and tortuous history. Newton’s triumphs in the science of mechanics. and was immune to vacuum pumps.
red the lowfrequency end. are easy to study by placing a detector at a certain location in space and studying the motion as a function of time. xrays. but if the paper was set to feed at the same velocity as the motion of an earthquake wave. With a water wave. the vowel “ah. a periodic water wave would be one that caused a rubber duck to bob in a periodic manner as they passed by it. The frequency of a light wave corresponds to color. and gamma rays. The period of a sound wave correlates with our sensory impression of musical pitch. Past the violet end. i. Taking the seismometer as an example. For a sound wave. there are infrared and radio waves. Graphs of waves as a function of position Some waves. or seismic waves too small to be felt as a noticeable earthquake but detectable by a seismometer. This visual snapshot amounts to a graph of the height of the water wave as a function of position. It can be used to record a person’s electrocardiogram.4 Periodic Waves Period and frequency of a periodic wave You choose a radio station by selecting a certain frequency.” p / A similar graph for a nonperiodic wave. then we describe the sound wave that caused them as periodic. Likewise we can deﬁne the period and frequency of a wave in terms of the period and frequency of the vibrations it causes.. It is not possible to sing a nonperiodic sound like “sh” with a deﬁnite pitch. are periodic. 60 Chapter 3 Free Waves . it is simpler just to look at the wave directly. an obsolescing device consisting of a pen that wiggles back and forth as a roll of paper is fed under it. A color like brown that does not occur in a rainbow is not a periodic light wave. The result is a graph whose horizontal axis is time. An easy way to visualize this is in terms of a strip chart recorder. but what do they signify in the case of a wave? We can recycle our previous deﬁnition simply by stating it in terms of the vibrations that the wave causes as it passes a receiving instrument at a certain point in space. Any wave can be represented in either way. “sh. on the other hand.” q / A strip chart recorder. Many phenomena that we do not normally think of as light are actually just forms of light that are invisible because they fall outside the range of frequencies our eyes can detect. this receiver could be an eardrum or a microphone. If the vibrations of the eardrum repeat themselves over and over. As another example. Violet is the highfrequency end of the rainbow. we have ultraviolet. the chart is essentially a record of the ground’s wave motion as a function of time. it would also be a fullscale representation of the proﬁle of the actual o / A graph of pressure versus time for a periodic sound wave. The sounds that really deﬁne the musical notes of a song are only the ones that are periodic. We have already deﬁned period and frequency for vibrations.3. light sound waves. Beyond the red end of the visible rainbow.e. A high frequency (short period) is a high note.
knowing the wave motion as a function of time is equivalent to knowing it as a function of position. Assuming. The usual notation for wavelength is λ. v = fλ . The wavelength is simply the distance a pulse is able to travel before we make the next pulse. v = λ/T . r / A water wave proﬁle created by a series of repeating pulses. Section 3. s / Wavelengths of linear and circular water waves. as is usually the case. Wavelength is to space as period is to time.4 Periodic Waves 61 . This important and useful relationship is more commonly written in terms of the frequency. The distance between pulses is λ. the Greek letter lambda. Wave velocity related to frequency and wavelength Suppose that we create a repetitive disturbance by kicking the surface of a swimming pool. We are essentially making a series of wave pulses. T . so the speed of the wave is the distance divided by the time. The distance spanned by one repetition is referred to as one wavelength. Wavelength Any wave that is periodic will also display a repeating pattern when graphed as a function of position. and the time between pulses is the period.wave pattern itself. that the wave velocity is a constant number regardless of the wave’s shape.
85 m. since details smaller than about one wavelength cannot be resolved. The frequency is now ﬁxed.e.1 × 106 s−1 ) = 3. so there is a ﬁxed relationship between their frequency and wavelength.4 m/4 = 0. sound with frequencies higher than the range of human hearing. The resolution of the image is related to the wavelength. a station whose frequency is 88. High resolution therefore requires a short wavelength. u / A water wave traveling into a region with a different depth changes its wavelength. What is the wavelength of The speed of light is 3.4 m The size of a radio antenna is closely related to the wavelength of the waves it is intended to receive.1 MHz? Solving for wavelength. Thus we can say either “Are we on the same wavelength?” or “Are we on the same frequency?” A diﬀerent example is the behavior of a wave that travels from a region where the medium has one set of properties to an area where the medium behaves diﬀerently.0 × 10 the radio waves emitted by KKJZ. The match need not be exact (since after all one antenna can receive more than one wavelength!). An antenna optimized to receive KKJZ’s signal would have a length of 3. 62 Chapter 3 Free Waves . t / Ultrasound. corresponding to a high frequency.Wavelength of radio waves example 5 8 m/s. i. but the ordinary “whip” antenna such as a car’s is 1/4 of a wavelength. The equation v = f λ deﬁnes a ﬁxed relationship between any two of the variables if the other is held ﬁxed. The speed of radio waves in air is almost exactly the same for all wavelengths and frequencies (it is exactly the same if they are in a vacuum). was used to make this image of a fetus. we have λ = v /f = (3..0 × 108 m/s)/(88.
Such a wave is called a dispersive wave. regardless of whether they are sine waves or not. This is undoubtedly because our earbrain system evolved to be able to interpret human speech and animal noises. In fact. 2f .2. we see that water waves that move into a region of diﬀerent depth must change their wavelength. i. This eﬀect can be observed when ocean waves come up to the shore. Section 3. which are periodic but not sinusoidal. The velocity of water waves depends on the depth of the water. the tip of the wave can curl over. Our sense of hearing perceives any two sounds having the same period as possessing the same pitch. In this sense. causing a kink or discontinuity at the boundary. and waves tend to ﬂatten out their curvature. Their bias is not unreasonable. 3f .. sine waves are the basic. as shown in the ﬁgure on the left. . it could never occur in the ﬁrst place. Sinusoidal waves Sinusoidal waves are the most important special case of periodic waves.) Since the frequency must stay the same. since the French mathematician Fourier showed that any periodic wave with frequency f can be constructed as a superposition of sine waves with frequencies f . which would be unphysical.) However. because they consider only sine waves to be pure examples of a certain frequency and wavelengths. on the other hand. (A more careful argument is that a kink or discontinuity would have inﬁnite curvature.4 Periodic Waves 63 . An inﬁnite curvature would ﬂatten out inﬁnitely fast. pure building blocks of all waves. where it is discussed in more detail in optional section 4. judge a color as pure (belonging to the rainbow set of colors) only if it is a sine wave.because otherwise the two portions of the wave would otherwise get out of step. many scientists and engineers would be uncomfortable with deﬁning a waveform like the “ah” vowel sound as having a deﬁnite frequency and wavelength. A note on dispersive waves The discussion of wave velocity given here is actually an oversimpliﬁcation for a wave whose velocity depends on its frequency and wavelength. If the deceleration of the wave pattern is sudden enough. Nearly all the waves we deal with in this course are nondispersive. Our eyes.e.. what deﬁnition to use is a matter of utility. any change in the velocity that results from the new medium must cause a change in wavelength. (Fourier’s result so surprised the mathematical community of France that he was ridiculed the ﬁrst time he publicly presented his theorem.. resulting in a breaking wave. but the issue becomes important in book 6 of this series. so based on λ = v/f .
The frequency Doppler eﬀect is the reason for the familiar droppingpitch sound of a race car going by. the Doppler eﬀect depends only the relative motion of the source and the observer. and will then be surrounded by the next crest sooner than she otherwise would have. We can also infer a change in frequency. or equivalently the frequency.5 The Doppler Effect Figure v shows the wave pattern made by the tip of a vibrating rod which is moving across the water. we hear a higher pitch. we can easily calculate the wavelength. This is known as the Doppler eﬀect. and to waves emitted either directly along or directly against the direction of motion. of the Dopplershifted waves. all centered on the same point. the wavelength is shortened on one side and lengthened on the other. The wavelength of the v / The pattern of waves made by a point source moving to the right across the water. and vs the velocity of the source. because she has moved toward it and hastened her encounter with it.Discussion Question A Suppose we superimpose two sine waves with equal amplitudes but slightly different frequencies. If the rod had been vibrating in one place. Let v be the velocity of the waves. Note the shorter wavelength of the forwardemitted waves and the longer wavelength of the backwardgoing ones. 64 Chapter 3 Free Waves . the equation v = f λ tells us that the change in wavelength must be matched by an opposite change in frequency: higher frequency for the waves emitted forward. Note that the velocity of the waves is a ﬁxed property of the medium. and lower for the ones emitted backward. but after it passes us we hear a frequency that is lower than normal. Since the velocity is constant. The Doppler eﬀect will also occur if the observer is moving but the source is stationary. not on their absolute state of motion (which is not a welldeﬁned notion in physics) or on their velocity relative to the medium. As the car approaches us. What will the superposition look like? What would this sound like if they were sound waves? 3. as shown in the ﬁgure. But since the source of the waves is moving. Roughly speaking. so for example the forwardgoing waves do not get an extra boost in speed as would a material object like a bullet being shot forward from an airplane. Restricting ourselves to the case of a moving source. For instance. we would have seen the familiar pattern of concentric circles. an observer moving toward a stationary source will perceive one crest of the wave.
a change of 18%. A similar equation can be used for the backwardemitted waves. in 2005. we ﬁnd for the wavelength of the Dopplershifted wave the equation λ = 1− vs λ v . however. but with a plus sign rather than a minus sign.99999983 v . Since the frequency is inversely proportional to the wavelength for a ﬁxed value of the speed of sound. the percentage shift is only 0. we ﬁnd 1− vs = 0. A Doppler radar image of Hurricane Katrina.18. we ﬁnd 1− vs = 0. Doppler radar example 8 The ﬁrst use of radar was by Britain during World War II: antennas on the ground sent radio waves up into the sky. i. The second example shows that under ordinary earthbound circumstances.e. when it comes to stars and galaxies. v = 3... so the shift in wavelength is 15%.000017%. Doppler shifts of light are negligible because ordinary things go so much slower than the speed of light.e. and this leads us to a story that has profound implications for our understanding of the origin of the universe. by what percentage are the wavelength and frequency of its sound waves shifted for an observer lying along its line of motion? For an observer whom the car is approaching. Dopplershifted sound from a race car example 6 If a race car moves at a velocity of 50 m/s. and the velocity of sound is 340 m/s.) Doppler shift of the light emitted by a race car example 7 What is the percent shift in the wavelength of the light waves emitted by a race car’s headlights? Looking up the speed of light in the front of the book. and detected the echoes when the waves were reﬂected from German planes.forwardemitted waves is shortened by an amount vs T equal to the distance traveled by the source over the course of one period.85 = 1. the Doppler shifts of the wavelength and frequency are about the same. the frequency is shifted upward by 1/0. Using the deﬁnition f = 1/T and the equation v = f λ. It’s a diﬀerent story. i.0 × 108 m/s. (For velocities that are small compared to the wave velocities. w / Example 8. Section 3.5 The Doppler Effect 65 .85 v .
Later, air forces wanted to mount radar antennas on airplanes, but then there was a problem, because if an airplane wanted to detect another airplane at a lower altitude, it would have to aim its radio waves downward, and then it would get echoes from the ground. The solution was the invention of Doppler radar, in which echoes from the ground were differentiated from echoes from other aircraft according to their Doppler shifts. A similar technology is used by meteorologists to map out rainclouds without being swamped by reﬂections from the ground, trees, and buildings.
Optional topic: Doppler shifts of light If Doppler shifts depend only on the relative motion of the source and receiver, then there is no way for a person moving with the source and another person moving with the receiver to determine who is moving and who isn’t. Either can blame the Doppler shift entirely on the other’s motion and claim to be at rest herself. This is entirely in agreement with the principle stated originally by Galileo that all motion is relative. On the other hand, a careful analysis of the Doppler shifts of water or sound waves shows that it is only approximately true, at low speeds, that the shifts just depend on the relative motion of the source and observer. For instance, it is possible for a jet plane to keep up with its own sound waves, so that the sound waves appear to stand still to the pilot of the plane. The pilot then knows she is moving at exactly the speed of sound. The reason this doesn’t disprove the relativity of motion is that the pilot is not really determining her absolute motion but rather her motion relative to the air, which is the medium of the sound waves. Einstein realized that this solved the problem for sound or water waves, but would not salvage the principle of relative motion in the case of light waves, since light is not a vibration of any physical medium such as water or air. Beginning by imagining what a beam of light would look like to a person riding a motorcycle alongside it, Einstein eventually came up with a radical new way of describing the universe, in which space and time are distorted as measured by observers in different states of motion. As a consequence of this Theory of Relativity, he showed that light waves would have Doppler shifts that would exactly, not just approximately, depend only on the relative motion of the source and receiver.
x / The galaxy M51. Under high magniﬁcation, the milky clouds reveal themselves to be composed of trillions of stars.
The Big Bang As soon as astronomers began looking at the sky through telescopes, they began noticing certain objects that looked like clouds in deep space. The fact that they looked the same night after night meant that they were beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Not knowing what they really were, but wanting to sound oﬃcial, they called them “nebulae,” a Latin word meaning “clouds” but sounding more impressive. In the early 20th century, astronomers realized that although some really were clouds of gas (e.g., the middle “star” of Orion’s sword, which is visibly fuzzy even to the naked eye when conditions are good), others were what we now call galaxies: virtual island universes consisting of trillions of stars (for example the An
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dromeda Galaxy, which is visible as a fuzzy patch through binoculars). Three hundred years after Galileo had resolved the Milky Way into individual stars through his telescope, astronomers realized that the universe is made of galaxies of stars, and the Milky Way is simply the visible part of the ﬂat disk of our own galaxy, seen from inside. This opened up the scientiﬁc study of cosmology, the structure and history of the universe as a whole, a ﬁeld that had not been seriously attacked since the days of Newton. Newton had realized that if gravity was always attractive, never repulsive, the universe would have a tendency to collapse. His solution to the problem was to posit a universe that was inﬁnite and uniformly populated with matter, so that it would have no geometrical center. The gravitational forces in such a universe would always tend to cancel out by symmetry, so there would be no collapse. By the 20th century, the belief in an unchanging and inﬁnite universe had become conventional wisdom in science, partly as a reaction against the time that had been wasted trying to ﬁnd explanations of ancient geological phenomena based on catastrophes suggested by biblical events like Noah’s ﬂood. In the 1920’s astronomer Edwin Hubble began studying the Doppler shifts of the light emitted by galaxies. A former college football player with a serious nicotine addiction, Hubble did not set out to change our image of the beginning of the universe. His autobiography seldom even mentions the cosmological discovery for which he is now remembered. When astronomers began to study the Doppler shifts of galaxies, they expected that each galaxy’s direction and velocity of motion would be essentially random. Some would be approaching us, and their light would therefore be Dopplershifted to the blue end of the spectrum, while an equal number would be expected to have red shifts. What Hubble discovered instead was that except for a few very nearby ones, all the galaxies had red shifts, indicating that they were receding from us at a hefty fraction of the speed of light. Not only that, but the ones farther away were receding more quickly. The speeds were directly proportional to their distance from us. Did this mean that the earth (or at least our galaxy) was the center of the universe? No, because Doppler shifts of light only depend on the relative motion of the source and the observer. If we see a distant galaxy moving away from us at 10% of the speed of light, we can be assured that the astronomers who live in that galaxy will see ours receding from them at the same speed in the opposite direction. The whole universe can be envisioned as a rising loaf of raisin bread. As the bread expands, there is more and more space between the raisins. The farther apart two raisins are, the greater the speed with which they move apart.
y / How do astronomers know what mixture of wavelengths a star emitted originally, so that they can tell how much the Doppler shift was? This image (obtained by the author with equipment costing about $5, and no telescope) shows the mixture of colors emitted by the star Sirius. (If you have the book in black and white, blue is on the left and red on the right.) The star appears white or bluishwhite to the eye, but any light looks white if it contains roughly an equal mixture of the rainbow colors, i.e., of all the pure sinusoidal waves with wavelengths lying in the visible range. Note the black “gap teeth.” These are the ﬁngerprint of hydrogen in the outer atmosphere of Sirius. These wavelengths are selectively absorbed by hydrogen. Sirius is in our own galaxy, but similar stars in other galaxies would have the whole pattern shifted toward the red end, indicating they are moving away from us.
z / The telescope at Wilson used by Hubble.
Mount
Section 3.5
The Doppler Effect
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Extrapolating backward in time using the known laws of physics, the universe must have been denser and denser at earlier and earlier times. At some point, it must have been extremely dense and hot, and we can even detect the radiation from this early ﬁreball, in the form of microwave radiation that permeates space. The phrase Big Bang was originally coined by the doubters of the theory to make it sound ridiculous, but it stuck, and today essentially all astronomers accept the Big Bang theory based on the very direct evidence of the red shifts and the cosmic microwave background radiation. What the Big Bang is not Finally it should be noted what the Big Bang theory is not. It is not an explanation of why the universe exists. Such questions belong to the realm of religion, not science. Science can ﬁnd ever simpler and ever more fundamental explanations for a variety of phenomena, but ultimately science takes the universe as it is according to observations. Furthermore, there is an unfortunate tendency, even among many scientists, to speak of the Big Bang theory as a description of the very ﬁrst event in the universe, which caused everything after it. Although it is true that time may have had a beginning (Einstein’s theory of general relativity admits such a possibility), the methods of science can only work within a certain range of conditions such as temperature and density. Beyond a temperature of about 109 degrees C, the random thermal motion of subatomic particles becomes so rapid that its velocity is comparable to the speed of light. Early enough in the history of the universe, when these temperatures existed, Newtonian physics becomes less accurate, and we must describe nature using the more general description given by Einstein’s theory of relativity, which encompasses Newtonian physics as a special case. At even higher temperatures, beyond about 1033 degrees, physicists know that Einstein’s theory as well begins to fall apart, but we don’t know how to construct the even more general theory of nature that would work at those temperatures. No matter how far physics progresses, we will never be able to describe nature at inﬁnitely high temperatures, since there is a limit to the temperatures we can explore by experiment and observation in order to guide us to the right theory. We are conﬁdent that we understand the basic physics involved in the evolution of the universe starting a few minutes after the Big Bang, and we may be able to push back to milliseconds or microseconds after it, but we cannot use the methods of science to deal with the beginning of time itself. Discussion Questions
A If an airplane travels at exactly the speed of sound, what would be the wavelength of the forwardemitted part of the sound waves it emitted? How should this be interpreted, and what would actually happen? What happens if it’s going faster than the speed of sound? Can you use this to explain what you see in ﬁgures aa and ab?
aa / Shock waves from by the X15 rocket plane, ﬂying at 3.5 times the speed of sound.
ab / This ﬁghter jet has just accelerated past the speed of sound. The sudden decompression of the air causes water droplets to condense, forming a cloud.
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Free Waves
why can a supersonic ﬁghter plane catch up to its own sound. but not to its own bullets? C If someone inside a plane is talking to you.B If bullets go slower than the speed of sound.5 The Doppler Effect 69 . should their speech be Doppler shifted? Section 3.
not on the amount of energy in the wave. . a physical substance whose vibrations constitute a wave wavelength . . . notably water waves. . wavelength (Greek letter lambda) where v is the velocity of the waves and vs is the velocity of the source. . taken to be positive or negative so as to produce a Dopplerlengthened wavelength if the source is receding and a Dopplershortened one if it approaches. The velocity. which is the distance in space between repetitions of the wave pattern. (2) The medium is not transported along with the wave. The motion of any given point in the medium is a vibration about its equilibrium location. . The shifted wavelength is given by the equation λ = 1− vs λ v . . (For some types of waves. A wave emitted by a moving source will be shifted in wavelength and frequency. and wavelength of a periodic wave are related by the equation v = f λ. the adding together of waves that overlap with each other medium . Light is a wave. not of any physical medium. When two waves collide. A periodic wave is one that creates a periodic motion in a receiver as it passes it. Such a wave has a welldeﬁned period and frequency. . . . . . not a steady forward motion.Summary Selected Vocabulary superposition . A similar shift occurs if the observer 70 Chapter 3 Free Waves . and it will also have a wavelength. the velocity may also depend on the shape of the wave. . (3) The velocity of a wave depends on the medium. but it is a vibration of electric and magnetic ﬁelds. frequency. the change in a wave’s frequency and wavelength due to the motion of the source or the observer or both Notation λ. the distance in space between repetitions of a periodic wave Doppler eﬀect . . . .) Sound waves consist of increases and decreases (typically very small ones) in the density of the air. . Summary Wave motion diﬀers in three important ways from the motion of material objects: (1) Waves obey the principle of superposition. they simply add together. Light can travel through a vacuum. .
(This is not just approximately but exactly true for light waves. and in general the Doppler shift depends approximately only on the relative motion of the source and observer if their velocities are both small compared to the waves’ velocity.is moving.) Summary 71 . and this fact forms the basis of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
] 3 The ﬁgure shows one wavelength of a steady sinusoidal wave traveling to the right along a string. Pick one of these.] 2 (a) The graph shows the height of a water wave pulse as a function of position. Do the same for a point having the maximum magnitude of acceleration. Deﬁne a coordinate system in which the positive x axis points to the right and the positive y axis up. at a certain moment in time. 72 Chapter 3 Free Waves . (b) Repeat part a. Assume the pulse is traveling to the right. Problem 2. A problem that requires calculus. (d) Repeat part c. [Problem by Arnold Arons.Problems Key √ A computerized answer check is available online. but assume the pulse is traveling to the left. A diﬃcult problem. label with v = 0 all parts of the string whose velocities are zero. assuming the pulse is traveling to the right. (c) Now assume the original graph was of height as a function of time. and label with y = 0 all the appropriate parts of the string. 1 The following is a graph of the height of a water wave as a function of position. but assume the pulse is traveling to the left. Problem 3. and with a = 0 all parts whose accelerations are zero. such that the ﬂattened string would have y = 0. Copy the ﬁgure. (b) the frequency and velocity were both doubled while the amplitude remained unchanged. [Problem by Arnold Arons. Similarly. and indicate the direction of its velocity vector. There is more than one point whose velocity is of the greatest magnitude. Trace this graph onto another piece of paper. Draw a graph of height as a function of time for a speciﬁc point on the water. (c) the wavelength and amplitude were reduced by a factor of three while the velocity was doubled. and then sketch below it the corresponding graphs that would be obtained if (a) the amplitude and frequency were doubled while the velocity remained the same. and draw a graph of height as a function of position.
. This is true in general: the speed of a mechanical wave always depends on the medium’s inertia in relation to the restoring force (tension.e. the speed of the wave is greater if the string is under more tension. and less if it has more inertia. stiﬀness.) Based on these ideas.. 6 The musical note middle C has a frequency of 262 Hz.2. we saw that the speed of waves on a string depends on the ratio of T /µ.[Problem by Arnold Arons. for the case of a stationary observer and a source moving directly toward or away from the observer. while the speed of sounds in liquids and solids does not. 5 Suggest a quantitative experiment to look for any deviation from the principle of superposition for surface waves in water... Problems 73 . i. How fast would a singer have to be moving relative to a the rest of a band to make this much of a change in pitch due to the Doppler eﬀect? 8 In section 3. explain why the speed of sound in a gas depends strongly on temperature. What √ are its period and wavelength? 7 Singing that is oﬀpitch by more than about 1% sounds bad. resistance to compression.] 4 Find an equation for the relationship between the Dopplershifted frequency of a wave and the frequency of the original wave. Make it simple and practical.
74 Chapter 3 Free Waves .
How do we do control sound waves so skillfully? Mostly we do it by changing the shape of a connected set of hollow cavities in our chest. In this chapter we address what happens when a wave is conﬁned within a certain space. we seldom think about them consciously. throat. the human experiments with the production of complex speech sounds. we can produce all the vowel sounds. Since speech sounds are instinctive for us. there is an unmistakable diﬀerence between a human infant and a baby chimp: starting from birth. No other species can master syntax. Up until now. we have been studying only those properties of waves that can be understood as if they existed in an inﬁnite. showing the vocal tract. open space. 75 . as when a light wave moving through air encounters a glass windowpane. Chapter 4 Bounded Waves Speech is what separates humans most decisively from animals. and head. and even though chimpanzees can learn a vocabulary of hand signs.A crosssectional view of a human body. Somehow by moving the boundaries of this space in and out. or when a wave pattern encounters the boundary between two diﬀerent media.
4. consider what you see if you are swimming underwater and you look up at the surface. and light waves are reﬂected from the surface of a pond. Figure b shows a circular water wave being reﬂected from a straight wall. Second. only part of the wave is usually reﬂected. This is diﬀerent from the behavior of the rubber ball. not both. a material object such as a rubber ball would bounce back in the same way. but were then reﬂected back down into the water. which must go one way or the other. Transmission.1 Reﬂection. The reﬂection is the one on top. normally applied only to light waves in ordinary speech. In this chapter. and is formed by light waves that went up to the surface of the water. and Absorption Reﬂection and transmission Sound waves can echo back from a cliﬀ. The energy of the original wave is split between the two. from underwater. we will concentrate mainly on reﬂection of waves that move in one dimension.a / A diver photographed this ﬁsh. After all. You see your own reﬂection. as in ﬁgure c. Wave reﬂection does not surprise us. but a person standing outside would also be able to see her reﬂection in the glass. A material projectile shot up toward the surface would never rebound from the waterair 76 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves . to describe any such case of a wave rebounding from a barrier. Looking out through a window. we see light waves that passed through it. and its reﬂection. This is utterly counterintuitive. We use the word reﬂection. First. since we would expect the light waves to burst forth to freedom in the wideopen air. A light wave that strikes the glass is partly reﬂected and partly transmitted (passed) by the glass. and there are some surprises in store. But waves are not objects.
it would end up acting like the ﬁxed wall to which the light spring in c has been attached. Reﬂections such as b and c. They pass right through its body. p. which explains why windows always make reﬂections. How does the energy of the reﬂected pulse compare with that of the original? Answer. the reﬂected pulse is upsidedown.1 Reﬂection. so ﬁsh can have internal ears. the speed of light waves in window glass is about 30% less than in air. What is it about the diﬀerence between two media that causes waves to be partly reﬂected at the boundary between them? Is it their density? Their chemical composition? Ultimately all that matters is the speed of the wave in the two media. is like a more extreme version of example d/1. can usually be understood on the same basis as cases like d/1 and 2 later in his section. and still be detectable. in which the wave speed is diﬀerent. Sadly. but its depth is just as big as the original pulse’s height. The sound waves can travel hundreds of miles. where a wave encounters a massive ﬁxed object. Example c. so sound waves are not strongly reﬂected from a ﬁsh’s skin. Figures d/1 and 2 show examples of wave pulses being reﬂected at the boundary between two coil springs of diﬀerent weights. 101 c / A wave on a spring. The use of the word “reﬂection” naturally brings to mind the cre Section 4. The mechanism is similar to the one explained in example 2. is reﬂected from the ﬁxed end. A wave is partially reﬂected and partially transmitted at the boundary between media in which it has diﬀerent speeds. the atmosphere. Transmission. bouncing repeatedly between the bottom and the surface. water. and air. 101 b / Circular water waves are reﬂected from a boundary on the left. p. but the three media involved are the earth. where two media meet. initially traveling to the left. For example. selfcheck A In ﬁgure c. Longdistance radio communication. example 1 Why don’t ﬁsh have earholes? The speed of sound waves in a ﬁsh’s body is not much different from their speed in water. and the ionosphere. selfcheck B Sonar is a method for ships and submarines to detect each other by producing sound waves and listening for echoes. Whale songs traveling long distances example 2 Sound waves travel at drastically different speeds through rock. Whale songs are thus strongly reﬂected at both the bottom and the surface. noise pollution from ships has nearly shut down this cetacean version of the internet. for instance. What properties would an underwater object have to have in order to be invisible to sonar? Answer. If the heavy coil spring in d/1 was made heavier and heavier.boundary! Figure a shows a similar example. and Absorption 77 . Fish have internal ears. example 3 Radio communication can occur between stations on opposite sides of the planet.
A wave in the lighter spring. The reﬂection is inverted. because we do not normally refer to “reﬂection” when we look at surfaces that are not shiny. d / 1. not just polished ones.ation of an image by a mirror. we are actually seeing the reﬂecting of the sun from the concrete. The reﬂection is uninverted. but this might be confusing. 78 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves . which has a lower wave speed. reﬂection is how we see the surfaces of all objects. A wave moving to the right in the heavier spring is partly reﬂected at the boundary with the lighter spring. where the wave speed is greater. travels to the left and is then partly reﬂected and partly transmitted at the boundary with the heavier coil spring. When we look at a sidewalk. Nevertheless. The reason we don’t see an image of the sun at our feet is simply that the rough surface blurs the image so drastically. for example. 2.
Transmission. selfcheck C As a wave undergoes absorption. An inverted reﬂection. sound waves. The decrease in amplitude amounts to the same fractional change for each unit of distance covered. then the world would become more and more full of sound waves. upsidedown in these drawings). It’s important to realize that when we discuss inverted and uninverted reﬂections on a string. 101 e / 1. The reﬂected pulse will always be reversed front to back. The wave suﬀers a decrease in amplitude. which could never escape into the vacuum of outer space. dissipate into heat extremely slowly. this frictional heating eﬀect is quite weak. 2.1 Reﬂection. In many cases.e. This is because it is traveling in the other direction. as when you bend a coathangar back and forth and it becomes hot. By the principle of superposition. We can thus expect that in mechanical waves such as water waves. then two amplitude1 waves superposed on top of one another to make amplitude 1 + 1 = 2 must die down to amplitude 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 over the same distance. whereas the one reﬂected back to the left in 2 returns in its original upright form. the reduction in amplitude is exponential. we know that a wave of amplitude 2 must behave like the superposition of two identical waves of amplitude 1. In general. and Absorption 79 .Inverted and uninverted reﬂections Notice how the pulse reﬂected back to the right in example d/1 comes back upsidedown. Absorption So far we have tacitly assumed that wave energy remains as wave energy. and vibrations of matter always produce heat. p. This can be proven as follows. The leading edge of the pulse is what gets reﬂected ﬁrst. so it is still ahead when it starts back to the left — it’s just that “ahead” is now in the opposite direction. For example. but is not upsidedown. Does this mean that it slows down? Answer. An uninverted reﬂection. a reﬂection back into a faster medium and a reﬂection back into a slower medium. for instance. This is true for other waves as well. it loses energy.. as shown in ﬁgure e. and is not converted to any other form. f / A pulse traveling through a highly absorptive medium. if a wave decreases from amplitude 2 to amplitude 1 over a distance of 1 meter. If this was true. we are talking about whether the wave is ﬂipped across the direction of motion (i. and the sound of church music in a cathedral may reverberate for as much Section 4. or waves on a string. there are two possible types of reﬂections. The reﬂected pulse is reversed front to back. One type will always be an inverting reﬂection and one noninverting. If a single amplitude1 wave would die down to amplitude 1/2 over a certain distance. In reality. then after traveling another meter it will have an amplitude of 1/2. The reﬂected pulse is reversed both front to back and top to bottom. as shown in ﬁgure f. any mechanical wave consists of a traveling pattern of vibrations of some physical medium. the wave energy will gradually be converted into heat. Sound waves in air. That is. This is referred to as absorption.
This explains why our intuitive expectation of strong absorption of sound in water is incorrect. In general. A better strategy for soundprooﬁng is to create a sandwich of alternating layers of materials in which the speed of sound is very different. die out extremely rapidly compared to ripples on water. i.. what matters is the viscosity of the substance. but weakly by ﬂesh. Light is an interesting case. while its speed in ﬁberglass is essentially the same as its speed in air. but sound waves passing through a few inches of them are still not going to be absorbed sufﬁciently. 1014 km away from us. and our incorrect intuition arises from focusing on the wrong property of the substance: water’s high density. For sound waves and surface waves in liquids and gases. The classic design is alternating layers of ﬁberglass and plywood. The speed of sound in plywood is very high. a sound wave in a straight pipe could theoretically travel hundreds of kilometers before being noticeably attenuated.g / Xrays are light waves with a very high frequency. Of course the energy of light can be dissipated if it does pass through matter (and the light from distant galaxies is often absorbed if there happen to be clouds of gas or dust in between). Both materials are fairly good sound absorbers. and be assured that none of its light was absorbed in the vacuum of outer space during its 9year journey to us. the absorption of mechanical waves depends a great deal on the chemical composition and microscopic structure of the medium. due to its stiffness. which is what matters. whether it ﬂows easily like water or mercury or more sluggishly like molasses or antifreeze.e. The Hubble Space Telescope routinely observes light that has been on its way to us since the early history of the universe. whale songs and sonar). The point of combining them is that a sound wave that tries to get out will be strongly reﬂected at each of the ﬁberglassplywood boundaries. In fact. During this time it has traveled over a kilometer! Even this very gradual dissipation of energy occurs mostly as heating of the church’s walls and by the leaking of sound to the outside (where it will eventually end up as heat). sound is not absorbed very strongly even by passing through several inches of wood. rather than its low viscosity. since although it can travel through matter. Under the right conditions (humid air and low frequency). Thus we can look at the star Sirius. They are absorbed strongly by bones. for instance. to encourage reﬂection. and will bounce back and forth many times like a ping pong ball. as 3 or 4 seconds before it becomes inaudible. which is irrelevant. Water is a very weak absorber of sound (viz. Soundprooﬁng example 4 Typical amateur musicians setting out to soundproof their garages tend to think that they should simply cover the walls with the densest possible substance. billions of years ago. Ripples on the surface of antifreeze. Due to all the back 80 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves . it is not itself a vibration of any material substance.
this minimizes the amount of reﬂection. when you feel uncomfortable pressure in your ear while ﬂying. One possibility is to design the antenna so that the speed of the waves in it is as close as possible to the speed of the waves in the cable. Partial reﬂection then becomes irrelevant.1 Reﬂection. which was ﬁrst discussed in homework problem 2 in chapter 2. normally ﬁlled with air. with several holes. lying between the eardrum (tympanic membrane) and the inner ear. the sound may end up traveling a total distance equal to ten times the actual thickness of the soundprooﬁng before it escapes. and the Eustachian tube can also become blocked. The tympanogram example 7 The tympanogram is a medical procedure used to diagnose problems with the middle ear. the ﬁsh’s body is nearly transparent to sound. a great deal of their energy will be absorbed. and Absorption 81 . There are two ways to attack the problem. and there will therefore be partial reﬂection of the waves as they come from the cable to the antenna. so that the pressure in the inner ear cannot become equalized. The swim bladder example 5 The swim bladder of a ﬁsh. tympanometer. It contains a tiny set of bones that act as a system of levers to amplify the motion of the eardrum and transmit it to the inner ear. so it’s actually difﬁcult to get any of the sound wave energy to deposit itself in the ﬁsh so that the ﬁsh can hear it! The physics here is almost exactly the same as the physics of example 4 above. The ear has evolved so as to transmit a maximum h/A 7. example Section 4. The cable and the antenna act as two different media for radio waves. is often located right next to the ﬁsh’s ear. Ear infections or allergies can cause the middle ear to become ﬁlled with ﬂuid. with the gasﬁlled swim bladder playing the role of the lowdensity material. The air pressure in the inner ear is normally equalized via the Eustachian tube. such as a commercial station or an amateur “ham” radio station. One hole is used to send a 226 Hz sound wave into the ear canal. As discussed in example 1 on page 77. If the waves bounce back and forth many times between the ampliﬁer and the antenna. which connects to the throat. Transmission. The tympanometer has a probe that is inserted into the ear.andforth motion. This is the equivalent of having ten times the thickness of soundabsorbing material. it’s because the pressure has not yet equalized. Radio transmission example 6 A radio transmitting station. since all the wave energy will eventually exit through the antenna. must have a length of wire or cable connecting the ampliﬁer to the antenna. The middle ear is a chamber. The other method is to connect the ampliﬁer to the antenna using a type of wire or cable that does not strongly absorb the waves.
and there is in fact such a resonance. so that more sound energy than normal is reﬂected back. causing a large amount of reﬂection. Equally crudely. We expect resonant behavior. If the reﬂection is minimized for some value of the pressure that is different than atmospheric pressure. ﬂuidﬁlled middle ear would act as a medium that differed greatly from the air in the outer ear. when the pressures are equalized. then it is not possible for energy of the incoming sound wave to be turned into energy of vibration in the middle ear. The middle ear has some of the characteristics of a mass oscillating on a spring. which is typically at a frequency of about 600 Hz in adults. How would its energy and frequency compare with those of the original sound? Would it sound any different? What happens if you swap the two wires where they connect to a stereo speaker. resulting in waves that vibrate in the opposite way? 82 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves . If the reﬂection is stronger than normal. so the 226 Hz frequency emitted by the probe is actually quite far from resonance. A second hole in the probe senses the reﬂected wave. unjamming the middle ear’s mechanisms. we could imagine that an infected. and therefore by conservation of energy we would expect all of the sound to be reﬂected. there is probably something wrong with the inner ear.amount of wave motion to the inner ear. and it can relax to its normal position. because the Eustachian tube is blocked and cannot equalize the pressure with the outside environment. If the mechanisms of the middle ear are jammed and cannot vibrate. the forces on the eardrum cancel out. Sometimes the middle ear’s mechanisms can get jammed because of abnormally high or low pressure. Discussion Question A A sound wave that underwent a pressureinverting reﬂection would have its compressions converted to expansions and vice versa. we could forget about the wave ideas and think of the middle ear purely as as a mass on a spring. it indicates that that is the value of the pressure in the middle ear. Crudely. Any change in its physical properties will change its behavior from its normal optimum. but it also has some of the characteristics of a medium that carries waves. Diagnosing such a condition is the purpose of the third hole in the probe. The amount of reﬂection is measured as a function of this pressure. The full physical analysis is fairly complex. which is used to vary the pressure in the ear canal.
but not stationary kinks. but the Newtonian universe is supposed to be deterministic. let’s ﬁrst discuss what doesn’t happen. in which it is high. If only the frequency changed. The sudden change in the shape of the wave has resulted in a sharp kink at the boundary. so we know that the wavelength must change while the frequency remains constant. in which its velocity is low. producing a discontinuity in the wave. This is unphysical. For the sake of concreteness. Waves can have kinks. This can’t really happen. or its wavelength. We conclude that without positing partial reﬂection of the wave. then the parts of the wave in the two diﬀerent portions of the string would quickly get out of step with each other. we cannot simultaneously satisfy the requirements of (1) continuity of the wave. A sharp kink corresponds to an inﬁnite curvature at one point. The gory details are likely to be of interest mainly to students with concentrations in the physical sciences. A change in frequency without a change in wavelength would produce a discontinuity in the wave. Section 4. 2. (The student who has studied calculus will recognize this as amounting to an assumption that both the wave and its derivative are continuous functions. since otherwise a given set of initial conditions could lead to diﬀerent behavior later on. to a lighterweight part. which would produce an inﬁnite acceleration. because the medium tends to accelerate in such a way as to eliminate curvature. and we derive below a valid solution involving a reﬂected pulse. and discuss how to predict for any type of wave which reﬂections are inverting and which are noninverting. Now in physics.4. and (2) no sudden changes in the slope of the wave. In the following subsection. or both. we prove that a valid solution can always be found in which a reﬂection occurs. but all readers are encouraged at least to skim the ﬁrst two subsections for physical insight. 2.2 Quantitative Treatment of Reﬂection 83 . predict quantitatively the intensities of reﬂection and transmission. Why reﬂection occurs To understand the fundamental reasons for what does occur at the boundary between media. A simple change in wavelength without a reﬂection would result in a sharp kink in the wave. we will have ended up with what amounts i / 1. which would not be consistent with the smooth pattern of wave motion envisioned in ﬁgure 2. consider a sinusoidal wave on a string. i/1.) Does this amount to a proof that reﬂection occurs? Not quite. then the equation v = f λ tells us that it must change its frequency. If the wave progresses from a heavier portion of the string. Since the solution must be unique. We have only proven that certain types of wave motion are not valid solutions.2 Quantitative Treatment of Reﬂection In this optional section we analyze the reasons why reﬂections occur at a speedchanging boundary. But there is still something unphysical about ﬁgure 2. we normally assume (but seldom prove formally) that the equations of motion have a unique solution.
Equality of slopes gives s − sR = s(v1 /v2 )T . since the wave has been reversed in direction. the height of the wave is given by the height 1 of the incident wave. and the slopes of the superposed waves on the left side add up to s − sR. toward the heavier string. The top drawing shows the pulse heading to the right. and without inversion. respectively. where v1 is the velocity in the original medium and v2 the velocity in the new medium. If the wave was 100% reﬂected. Their sum. the slope of the reﬂected wave equals −sR. On the right side immediately next to the boundary. T . and as a bonus this will produce an equation for the proportions of reﬂection and transmission and a prediction as to which conditions will lead to inverted and which to uninverted reﬂection. Let the unknown amplitudes of the reﬂected and transmitted waves be R and T . Once the reﬂected pulse begins to emerge from the boundary. all but the ﬁrst and last drawings are schematic. for example. An inverted reﬂection would be represented by a negative value of R. the slope depends on the amplitude. we must have 1+R=T . then the slope of the reﬂected wave would be −s. We can without loss of generality take the incident (original) wave to have unit amplitude. On the right. the wave speed is twice as great on the right side. plus the height R of the part of the reﬂected wave that has just been created and begun heading back. we could immediately ﬁnd a corresponding solution simply by doubling R and T . Superposition tells us that if. then the slope is cut in half by this eﬀect. the transmitted wave has a height T . For clarity. j / A pulse being partially reﬂected and partially transmitted at the boundary between two strings in which the speed of waves is different. The slope on the right is therefore s(v1 /v2 )T . which is a good approximations for waves on a string of suﬃciently small amplitude. the incident wave had double this amplitude. it adds together with the trailing parts of the incident pulse. for a total height of 1 + R. for instance. We assume only that the principle of superposition holds.to a proof of reﬂection. 84 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves . To avoid a discontinuity. shown as a wider line. Next we turn to the requirement of equal slopes on both sides of the boundary. In general. is what is actually observed. but is also changed by the stretching or compression of the wave due to the change in speed. Just to the left of the boundary. Let the slope of the incoming wave be s immediately to the left of the junction. in the case of waves on a string. Solving the two equations for the unknowns R and T gives R= v2 − v1 v2 + v1 and T = 2v2 v2 + v1 . that it is possible to satisfy the physical requirements given above by constructing a reﬂected wave. or 1−R= v1 T v2 . Intensity of reﬂection We will now show. If.
Inverted and uninverted reﬂections in general For waves on a string. one of which is often the derivative of the other with respect to position. reducing its kinetic energy. starting a chain reaction that travels backward down the freeway as each person in turn exercises caution in order to avoid rearending anyone. The energies of the transmitted and reﬂected wavers always add up to the same as the energy of the original wave. A person observing the mirror image will draw the same density graph. Let’s start by considering wave disturbances of freeway traﬃc. but the velocity graph will be ﬂipped across the x axis.. allows the amplitude of the transmitted wave to be greater than 1. easily visualized example of our description of a wave depends on which aspect of the wave we have in mind. which lessens its potential energy. but it occurs throughout the medium.) The equation for T . Anyone who has driven frequently on crowded freeways has observed the phenomenon in which one driver taps the brakes. In steadily ﬂowing freeway traﬃc. we can either describe it as a region of high density or as a region of decreasing velocity. (Conversion of wave energy to heat occurs for many types of waves. but velocity in the opposite direction will now be described by a negative number. and a sound wave can likewise be described either by the density (or pressure) of the air or by its speed. the areas of positive excess trafﬁc density are still positive. reﬂections back into a faster medium are inverted. and the transmitted pulse is broader and less strongly curved. the highdensity area will still appear high in density. The freeway traﬃc wave is in fact a good model of a sound wave. greater than that of the incident wave. while those back into a slower medium are uninverted. but the velocities of the cars have all been reversed.2 Quantitative Treatment of Reﬂection 85 . Likewise many other types of waves can be described by either of two functions. Is this true for all types of waves? The rather subtle answer is that it depends on what property of the wave you are discussing. There is never any abrupt loss (or gain) in energy when a wave crosses a boundary. both the density of cars and their velocity are constant all along the road. Now let’s consider reﬂections. This does not violate conservation of energy. and that the reﬂection is inverted in reﬂection back into a fast medium. in freeway Section 4. so areas of positive excess velocity have been turned into negative ones. If we observe the freeway wave in a mirror. Since there is no disturbance in this pattern of constant velocity and density. and its original region of negative slope will now have positive slope.The ﬁrst equation shows that there is no reﬂection unless the two wave speeds are diﬀerent. Although I don’t know any physical situation that would l / In the mirror image.e. because this occurs when the second string is less massive. i. The reason why this type of wave is relevant is that it gives a simple. surprisingly. we say that there is no wave. k / A disturbance trafﬁc. Now if a wave is touched oﬀ by a person tapping the brakes.
A light wave. In a mirror image. for instance consists of a traveling pattern of electric and magnetic ﬁelds. however. In other words. the direction of rotation is reversed. the optical coating on the lenses of these binoculars appears purple and green. The coating can’t change the speed of light in air or in glass. we can immediately apply the same reasoning to sound waves. so the electric ﬁeld is apparently reversed in a mirror image. We can thus predict that there will be two possible types of reﬂection of light waves. The direction of the hair indicates the direction of the electric ﬁeld. There are two diﬀerent interfaces between media: an aircoating boundary and a coatingglass boundary. are caused by the aligned rotation of the outermost orbiting electrons of the atoms.correspond to the reﬂection of a traﬃc wave. and determine that a reﬂection can either be densityinverting and velocitynoninverting or densitynoninverting and velocityinverting. and to apply the analogy we need only determine which quantities. coating. Now reﬂection is clearly undesirable — we want the light to go in the binoculars — but so far I’ve described reﬂection as an unalterable fact of nature. magnetic ﬁelds do not reverse themselves in a mirror image. say from clockwise to counterclockwise. so how can it work? The key is that the coating itself is a wave medium. For ease of visualization let’s start by considering an equivalent system consisting of m / Seen from this angle. 4. you will notice a greenishblue coating on the lenses. The behavior of magnetic ﬁelds. Partial reﬂection and partial transmission will occur at each boundary. like density. We will analyze the way the coating works. we have a threelayer sandwich of materials: air. become negated in a mirror image and which. you don’t need to know any of the detailed physics of electricity and magnetism. the hair points the other way. by the way one’s hair stands on end. This is advertised as a coating to prevent reﬂection. All you need to know in order to analyze the reﬂection of light waves is how electric and magnetic ﬁelds behave under reﬂection. is a little tricky.) 86 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves . which often do get reﬂected. the electric ﬁeld is uninverted and the magnetic ﬁeld inverted. In the other. This same type of situation will occur over and over as one encounters new types of waves. not because optical coatings are an important part of your education but because it provides a good example of the general phenomenon of wave interference eﬀects. The magnetic properties of a bar magnet. In one. stay the same.3 Interference Effects If you look at the front of a pair of highquality binoculars. An electric ﬁeld can be detected. depending only on the properties of the two wave media. for instance. (The color varies depending on the angle from which the coating is viewed. like velocity. In other words. the electric ﬁeld is inverted and the magnetic ﬁeld uninverted. In a mirror image. and so the magnetic ﬁeld is reversed twice: once simply because the whole picture is ﬂipped and once because of the reversed rotation of the electrons. for example. and the angle varies across the faces of the lenses because of their curvature. and glass.
) The pulse transmitted by the ﬁrst interface is then partially reﬂected and partially transmitted by the second boundary. (The transmitted pulse is bigger. 3. Figure n/1 shows the incident pulse moving through the heavy rope. or out of phase. it is partially reﬂected and partially transmitted. If we choose the width of the middle string segment correctly. the ideas you have learned about waves in general are suﬃcient to allow you to come to some deﬁnite conclusions without any further technical knowledge. and a single pulse is heading oﬀ to the right. The amount of lag between them depends entirely on the width of the middle segment of string.3 Interference Effects 87 . With a little guidance. The business of optical coatings turns out to be a very arcane one. One reﬂection is inverted. One underwent reﬂection at the ﬁrst boundary (a reﬂection back into a slower medium is uninverted). Visible light from most sources does consist of a stream of short sinusoidal wavetrains such as the ones drawn above. in which light does not have the same speed. but nevertheless has only part of the original energy. In ﬁgure 4. 2. o / Two reﬂections. you are now ready to ﬁgure out for yourself other examples such as the rainbow pattern made by a compact disc. with cancellation resulting in a very weak reﬂected wave. of the two reﬂected pulses in 4. a faster medium. or anywhere in between. the general result is the same as long as the air and the glass have lightwave speeds that either both greater than the coating’s or both less than the coating’s. the middle one being lighter. (There is still a weak pulse caught between the two boundaries. one is inverted and one uninverted. The selfcheck and discussion questions will direct you along these lines of thought. in which its velocity is low. The example of an optical coating was typical of a wide variety of wave interference eﬀects. Nevertheless. are superimposed. However. Now let’s imagine what would have happened if the incoming wave pattern had been a long sinusoidal wave train instead of a single pulse. but the other was reﬂected at the second boundary (reﬂection back into a faster medium is inverted). This whole analysis applies directly to our original case of optical coatings. with a plethora of trade secrets and “black magic” techniques handed down from master to apprentice. displays Section 4. and a wave pattern consisting initially of a single pulse. The only real diﬀerence between the wavesonarope example and the case of an optical coating is that the ﬁrst and third media are air and glass. o/1.) Note how. then we can arrange for destructive interference to occur. rapidly getting too weak to detect as it leaks energy to the outside with each partial reﬂection. p / A soap bubble interference effects. When it encounters the lighterweight rope in the middle.three dissimilar pieces of string tied together. 2. or a n / A rope consisting of three sections. The ﬁrst two waves to reemerge on the left could be in phase. and this will rattle back and forth. a layer of oil on a puddle. two pulses are on the way back out to the left.
Color corresponds to wavelength of light waves.soap bubble. with a thickness that changes gradually from one end to the other. What would you expect to see if the slides were illuminated from above by light of a single color? How would this change if you gradually lifted the lower edge of the top slide until the two slides were ﬁnally parallel? D An observation like the one described in discussion question C was used by Newton as evidence against the wave theory of light! If Newton didn’t know about inverting and noninverting reﬂections. what would have seemed inexplicable to him about the region where the air layer had zero or nearly zero thickness? 88 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves . at least for light of one speciﬁc wavelength? B Sunlight consists of sinusoidal wavetrains containing on the order of a hundred cycles backtoback. selfcheck D 1. How can you explain the rainbow colors on the soap bubble in ﬁgure p? Answer. for a length of something like a tenth of a millimeter. If you insert a sliver of paper or a hair at the opposite end. What happens if you try to make an optical coating thicker than this? C Suppose you take two microscope slides and lay one on top of the other so that one of its edges is resting on the corresponding edge of the bottom one. a wedgeshaped layer of air will exist in the middle. 101 Discussion Questions A Is it possible to get complete destructive interference in an optical coating. Is it possible to choose a thickness for an optical coating that will produce destructive interference for all colors of light? 2. p.
3.3. and in any case it was weakening severely with each partial reﬂection. the pulse has passed by every point on the string exactly twice. r / The motion of a pulse on the string. which is then conducted through the body and out into the air. the behavior of the waves when they reach the end of the string can be understood in the same way as if the actual guitar string was attached on the ends to strings that were extremely massive. For simplicity. After reﬂection from the top end. let’s just imagine a wave pattern that initially consists of a single. q. The motion is periodic. is actually the exit path for the wave energy in the strings.4 Waves Bounded on Both Sides 89 . This is why an electric guitar with no electric pickup can hardly be heard at all. narrow pulse traveling up the neck. moreover. If we initially create a disturbance on a guitar string. This is clearly demonstrated by the electric guitar. we should expect nearly 100% reﬂection. The body.) By changing the properties of the body. however. Because the wave speed in the body is so radically diﬀerent from the speed in the string. solid wooden body. This means that the total distance it has traveled q / A model of a guitar string. Now something interesting happens: ﬁgure 5 is identical to ﬁgure 1. Here the dissimilarity between the two wave media is even more pronounced. Reﬂections are most intense when the two media are very dissimilar. and it is also the reason why notes on an electric guitar can be sustained for longer than notes on an acoustic guitar. which has an extremely massive. and since the body is very massive.4. and we may think of this triangular shape as a very broad “dent” in the string which will spread out in both directions. Section 4. Although this may seem like a rather bizarre physical model of the actual guitar string. the pulse has been inverted twice and has changed direction twice. With every reﬂection. At its ends it is tied to the body of the instrument itself. s / A tricky way to double the frequency. it is inverted. It is now back where it started. it was theoretically true that a pulse would be trapped permanently in the middle medium. we should expect to have an eﬀect on the manner in which sound escapes from the instrument.4 Waves Bounded on Both Sides In the examples discussed in section 4. how will the reﬂections behave? In reality. but that pulse was not central to our discussion. selfcheck E Notice that from r/1 to r/5. Now consider a guitar string. After two reﬂections. the ﬁnger or pick will give the string a triangular shape before letting it go. This is why a guitar produces sounds that have a deﬁnite sensation of pitch. with the result that wave energy leaks out of the string even more slowly. far from being a passive frame for attaching the strings to. (The string has too little crosssection to make sound waves eﬃciently by itself. it already tells us something interesting about the behavior of a guitar that we would not otherwise have understood. r/1. the wave pattern on the string loses a tiny fraction of its energy.
In reality. The onehump wave.. We call its frequency fo . the motion can be broken down into the motion of a (theoretically inﬁnite) series of sine waves.equals 2L. its frequency is 2fo . this analysis applies to a vast range of soundproducing systems. is a little out of tune when played loudly. Similarly. but not exactly. 102 Note that if the waves on the string obey the principle of superposition. but wind players are able to compensate for it. This might seem like a purely academic possibility. and the guitar will produce the same pitch regardless of whether it is played loudly or softly. This means that the period of vibration is half as long. although the amplitudes required for the very high frequency parts would be very small. . then the velocity must be independent of amplitude. p. 2fo . Except for some technical details. The guitar. Figure t shows how even by using only four sine waves with appropriately chosen amplitudes. They will pass through each other. the threehump and fourhump waves have frequencies of 3fo and 4fo . and come back to a conﬁguration in which their positions have been exactly interchanged. Theoretically we would need to add together inﬁnitely many such wave patterns to describe the initial triangular shape of the string exactly. We thus arrive at the following very general conclusion.. Whenever a wave pattern exists in a medium bounded on both sides by media in which the wave speed is very diﬀerent. Because sounds composed of this kind of pattern of frequencies are so common. like just about any acoustic instrument. in which half a wavelength ﬁts on the string. is very much like the twopulse example. the velocity of the wave? Answer. t / Using the sum of four sine waves to approximate the triangular initial shape of a plucked guitar string. Given this fact. and an excellent approximation could be achieved with as few as ten waves.) Now there is only one hole in our reasoning. The frequency is twice as high. as in ﬁgure s. Suppose we somehow arrange to have an initial setup consisting of two identical pulses heading toward each other. will behave like the single pulse we originally discussed. (The eﬀect is more pronounced for wind instruments than for strings. what are the period and frequency of the sound it produces. including the air column within the human vocal tract. 3fo . our earbrain system has evolved so 90 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves . with one whole wavelength. For the reasons discussed above. waves on a string obey the principle of superposition approximately. The twohump wave. where L is the length of the string. undergo a single inverting reﬂection. A mathematical theorem called Fourier’s theorem states that any wave can be created by superposing sine waves. since nobody actually plays the guitar with two picks at once! But in fact it is an example of a very general fact about waves that are bounded on both sides. we can arrive at a sum which is a decent approximation to the realistic triangular shape of a guitar string being plucked. expressed in terms of L and v . to be discussed below. with frequencies fo .
It is important to realize that the term “dissonance” is not a negative one in music.e. in harmony.as to perceive them as a single. but not right on top of. called a standing wave. which simply vibrates back and forth in one place without moving. it is very sensitive to clashes between the overtones of notes played simultaneously. back in the days when people actually went to the bank. We tend to perceive a combination of notes as being dissonant if they have overtones that are close but not the same. although dissonance can be used in a clumsy way. u / Graphs of loudness versus frequency for the vowel “ah. fused sensation of tone. i. The characteristic tone of the brass instruments. Dissonance is a necessary ingredient in the creation of a musical cycle of tension and release. .. In reality.. because no other shape is possible. No matter how long you search the radio dial. it’s not even obvious that sine waves should be able to do this trick. waves are supposed to travel at a set speed. but they are kidding themselves. since every overtone of G that is close to an overtone of D (*) is at exactly the same frequency.4 Waves Bounded on Both Sides 91 . is a sound that starts out with a very strong harmonic series extending up to very high frequencies. for example. 3fo . G is consonant with D. The sine wave just creates itself automatically when you ﬁnd the right frequency. we can actually think of a standing wave as a superposition of a moving Section 4. In fact. If you think about it. aren’t they? The speed isn’t supposed to be zero! Well. Roughly speaking. G and C# are dissonant together. or without providing any contrast between dissonance and consonance... although the ear cannot separate the individual harmonics of a single musical tone. Second. Standing waves Figure v shows sinusoidal wave patterns made by shaking a rope. neither of which depends on this ﬁctitious ability to “hear out” the individual overtones. you will never hear more than three seconds of music without at least one dissonant combination of notes. You might think that I and the person in the photos had to practice for a long time in order to get such nice sine waves. Musical applications Many musicians claim to be able to pick out by ear several of the frequencies 2fo . First.” sung as three different musical notes. the overtone series has two important roles in music. the relative strengths of the overtones is an important part of the personality of a sound. but whose higher harmonics die down drastically as the attack changes to the sustained portion of the note. I used to enjoy doing this at the bank with the pens on chains. After all. called its timbre (rhymes with “amber”). those of C#. since some of the overtones of G (x) are close to. called overtones or harmonics of the fundamental fo . Musically knowledgeable people don’t use the word “dissonant” as a criticism of music. strong overtones whose frequencies diﬀer by more than 1% and less than 10% cause the notes to sound dissonant. a sine wave is the only shape that can create this kind of wave pattern.
3fo . Since all the overtones are multiples of 2fo . The technique can be used in order to make it easier to play high notes in rapid passages.. You are a standing wave! Harmonics on string instruments example 8 Figure x shows a violist playing what string players refer to as a natural harmonic. w. The term “harmonic” is used here in a somewhat different sense than in physics. this allows the string to vibrate at frequencies 2fo . . . 4fo . Other functions don’t have this property. As the two sine waves go back and forth. In musical terms. they always cancel perfectly at the ends. Sine waves have the unique mathematical property. and their sum appears to stand still. that the sum of sine waves of equal wavelength is simply a new sine wave with the same wavelength. but not at the odd multiples fo . which have stationary points at the center of the string. . sine wave with its own reﬂection. because of the change in timbre. As shown in the diagram. the ear perceives 2fo as the basic frequency of the note. . v / Standing waves on a spring.. or for its own sake. 6fo . . doubling the frequency corresponds to raising the pitch by an octave. which is moving the opposite way. Standing wave patterns are rather important. The musician’s pinkie is pressing very lightly against the string — not hard enough to make it touch the ﬁngerboard — at a point precisely at the center of the string’s length. . since atoms are really standingwave patterns of electron waves. x / Example 8.w / Sine waves add to make sine waves. 92 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves .
Thus. and the only way it can do that without developing a kink is if there is a reﬂection.Standingwave patterns of air columns The air column inside a wind instrument behaves very much like the waveonastring example we’ve been concentrating on so far. because the embouchure hole (the hole the player blows over) acts like an open end. Some organ pipes are closed at both ends. if the sound wave is free to emerge into open space. sound waves undergo partial reﬂection at the open ends of tubes as well as closed ones. so the wave pattern is pinched oﬀ at the ends. Points on the axis have normal air density. the saxophone symmetric. The adjustment of the wave pattern from a plane wave to a spherical y / Surprisingly. We can only have a standing wave pattern if there are reﬂections at the ends. and there is no change in medium? Recall the reason why we got reﬂections at a change in medium: because the wavelength changes. aa. which is open at both ends of the air column. A common example is the pan pipes. The standing wave with the lowest frequency is therefore one in which 1/4 of a wavelength ﬁts along the length of the tube. These reﬂections are both densitynoninverting. in both cases the wavelength is the same: in the lowestfrequency standing wave. ab. it isn’t necessary to memorize which type of reﬂection is inverting and which is inverting. z / Graphs of excess density versus position for the lowestfrequency standing waves of three types of air columns. and we can have standing waves. as shown in ﬁgure z/3. The reﬂections at the open ends are densityinverting. we see that although the wave pattens are diﬀerent. which are closed at the bottom and open at the top. Finally. Something similar is happening here. The speed of sound is diﬀerent in metal than in air. so there is a strong reﬂection at the closed ends. but they act diﬀerent. Comparing panels 1 and 2 of the ﬁgure. A concert ﬂute. so the wave has to readjust itself from one pattern to another. having a mouthpiece and reed at one end and an open end at the other. The discrepancy comes from the diﬀerence between the conical tube of the sax and the cylindrical tube of the clarinet. so we get symmetric standingwave patterns. Sometimes an instrument’s physical appearance can be misleading. It’s only necessary to know that the tubes are symmetric. is closed at the mouth end and open at the other. The only diﬀerence is that the wave is adjusting from being a plane wave to being a spherical wave. such as the one shown in ﬁgure z/1. in reality. z/2.4 Waves Bounded on Both Sides 93 . we can have an asymmetric tube: closed at one end and open at the other. the main diﬀerence being that we may have either inverting or noninverting reﬂections at the ends. In fact the clarinet’s air column has patterns of vibration that are asymmetric. it behaves like a symmetric air column open at both ends. Figure y shows the sound waves in and around a bamboo Japanese ﬂute called a shakuhachi. but that is very counterintuitive — why is there any reﬂection at all. The clarinet and the saxophone look similar. so we would expect it to behave like an asymmetric air column. Section 4. half a wavelength ﬁts inside the tube.
ab / A concert ﬂute looks like an asymmetric air column. However. 102 aa / A pan pipe is an asymmetric air column. its patterns of vibration are symmetric.wave is more gradual at the ﬂaring bell of the saxophone. shown in the ﬁgure? Based on this. open at the top and closed at the bottom. because the embouchure hole acts like an open end. selfcheck F Draw a graph of pressure versus position for the ﬁrst overtone of the air column in a tube open at one end and closed at the other. 94 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves . how many times greater will its frequency be? Answer. This will be the nexttolongest possible wavelength that allows for a point of maximum vibration at one end and a point of no vibration at the other. How many times shorter will its wavelength be compared to the wavelength of the lowestfrequency standing wave. p. open at the mouth end and closed at the other.
. . . the wave will have a period equal to twice the time required to traverse the region. A onedimensional wave conﬁned by highly reﬂective boundaries on two sides will display motion which is periodic. . wavelength (Greek letter lambda) Summary 95 . the gradual conversion of wave energy into heating of the medium standing wave . a wave in a dense material like wood will be strongly reﬂected back into the wood at a woodair boundary. or to that time divided by an integer. Surprisingly. if both reﬂections are inverting. . .Summary Selected Vocabulary reﬂection . the bouncing back of part of a wave from a boundary transmission . .. . . . a wave pattern that stays in one place Notation λ. The reﬂection is always reversed fronttoback. the greater the fraction of the wave energy that is reﬂected. Summary Whenever a wave encounters the boundary between two media in which its speeds are diﬀerent. . the continuation of part of a wave through a boundary absorption . Whether the reﬂection is inverted depends on how the wave speeds in the two media compare. . The greater the diﬀerence in wave speed between the two media. the wave forms a stationary pattern composed of a superposition of sine waves moving in opposite direction. For example. . . An important special case is a sinusoidal wave. but may also be inverted in amplitude. part of the wave is reﬂected and part is transmitted. . . . a wave on a string is uninverted when it is reﬂected back into a segment of string where its speed is lower. in this case. .g. . e.
Compute the length of the ﬂute. The speeds of light in air and water are 3. [Hint: The answers to the two parts are not the same. the mouthpiece. and the air column. Let’s consider possible physical reasons for the change in pitch. Brass expands by 1. simply by altering the tightness of her lips: E (150 Hz). because the stronger random motion of the atoms tends to bump them apart.e. (a) Calculate the ﬁrst four or ﬁve harmonics of C and G.2%.] √ 3 A concert ﬂute produces its lowest note.) 2 (a) Using the equations from optional section 4. when half of a wavelength ﬁts inside its tube. (b) Find the energy of the reﬂected wave as a fraction of the incident energy. the reed. A problem that requires calculus.2×108 m/s. [Hint: Remember that harmonics that diﬀer by about 110% cause dissonance. or lower it? Estimate the size of the eﬀect in comparison with the observed change in frequency.0×108 and 2. Why isn’t it possible to play notes below the normal range using this technique? 5 The table gives the frequencies of the notes that make up the key of F major. E (300 Hz). p. (b) Do the same for C and B .2 392.88 × 10−5 per degree C. 1 Light travels faster in warmer air. compute the amplitude of light that is reﬂected back into air at an airwater interface. B (450 Hz).) (b) Some saxophone players are known for their ability to use this technique to play “freak notes. and determine whether these two notes will be consonant or dissonant.” i. A diﬃcult problem.0 466. Answer. respectively.2. Suppose a particular trumpet’s frequency goes up by 1.. and E (600 Hz). 102 4 (a) A good tenor saxophone player can play all of the following notes without changing her ﬁngering.0 440. Use this fact to explain the formation of a mirage appearing like the shiny surface of a pool of water when there is a layer of hot air above a road. notes above the normal range of the instrument. which is very complicated. Would this tend to raise the pitch.6 349.Problems Key √ A computerized answer check is available online. (a) Solids generally expand with increasing temperature.2 Problem 5. starting from middle C and going up through all seven notes.7 329. at about 262 Hz. How is this possible? (I’m not asking you to analyze the coupling between the lips. pretend that there is actually a sharp boundary between the hot layer and the cooler layer above it.] 6 Brass and wind instruments go up in pitch as the musician warms up.6 Hz 293. (For simplicity. relative to the amplitude of the incident wave. (b) The speed of sound in a gas is proportional to the square root of the absolute C D E F G A B 261. 96 Chapter 4 Bounded Waves .
where zero absolute temperature is 273 degrees C.5% carbon dioxide. 7 Your exhaled breath contains about 4. analyze the size and direction of the eﬀect. As in part a.3%. and is therefore more dense than fresh air by about 2. Problems 97 .2. Calculate the eﬀect on the frequency produced by a wind instrument. By analogy with the treatment of waves on a string in section 3.temperature. we expect that the speed of sound will be inversely proportional to the square root of the density of the gas.
for which the springs do not go slack. 2. Try a cart with a diﬀerent mass. Does the period change by the expected factor. Try at least one moderate amplitude. and make a graph of force versus position. and one amplitude that’s the very smallest you can possibly observe. 1. based on the equation T = 2π m/k? 3. Is it linear? If so. Test whether the period of vibration depends on amplitude. . Use a spring scale to pull the cart away from equilibrium. Test the equation T = 2π m/k numerically. what is its slope? 4.Appendix 1: Exercises Exercise 1A: Vibrations Equipment: • air track and carts of two diﬀerent masses • springs • spring scales Place the cart on the air track and attach springs so that it can vibrate. at least one amplitude that is large enough so that they do go slack.
2. 99 . Compare the Q values of the two oscillators. B. C. Compare the oscillator’s energies at A. 3. Match the xt graphs in #2 with the amplitudefrequency graphs below.Exercise 2A: Worksheet on Resonance 1. and D.
surfer. CCBYSA. fair use law may give you less leeway than it gives me. Le Floch. public domain. courtesy of NASA. 94 Pan pipes: Wikipedia user Andrew Dunn. Supp. 47 Painting of waves: Katsushika Hokusai (17601849).. CCBY license.de. e137. MRI. There is also a blanket permission given in the later PSSC College Physics edition. LBNL. an agency of the U. courtesy of the UC Berkeley Earth Sciences and Map Library. The early editions of these books never had their copyrights renewed.S. In some cases it’s clear from the date that the ﬁgure is public domain. v. Beckwith (STScI). 3. 52 Breaking wave: Ole Kils. CCBYSA licensed (Wikimedia Commons). and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). www.S. Wikipedia user janderk.S. ESA. Navy photo by Ensign John Gay.. xray. In a few cases. 76 Reﬂection of ﬁsh: Jan Derk.org. CCBY license. and in translations after December 31.Appendix 2: Photo Credits Except as speciﬁcally noted below or in a parenthetical credit in the caption of a ﬁgure. National Library of Medicine. S. I would be grateful to anyone who could help me to give proper credit. U. ccbysa licensed. which states on the copyright page that “The materials taken from the original and second editions and the Advanced Topics of PSSC PHYSICS included in this text will be available to all publishers for use in English after December 31. 62 Changing wavelength: PSSC Physics.Y. 1970. 1999). dedicated to the public domain by user Tsca. (Bridgeman Art Library. Nature 440:621 (2006). 77 Reﬂection of circular waves: PSSC Physics. 77 Reﬂection of pulses: PSSC Physics. 78 Reﬂection of pulses: Photo from PSSC Physics. In particular. However. 2d 191. 52 Surﬁng (hand drag): Stan Shebs. 85 Traﬃc: Wikipedia user Diliﬀ. public domain. from Stillman Fires Collection: Tacoma Fire Dept. When “PSSC Physics” is given as a credit.S. Both are public domain. 37 Twodimensional MRI: Image of the author’s wife. 66 M51 galaxy: public domain Hubble Space Telescope image. government. government web pages are copyrightfree. 25 Tacoma Narrows Bridge: Public domain.S. Line art by the author. US NIH. 89 Photo of guitar: Wikimedia Commons.” Credits to Millikan and Gale refer to the textbooks Practical Physics (1920) and Elements of Physics (1927). Contents Bridge. 92 Standing waves: PSSC Physics. and are copyleft licensed under the same license as the rest of the book. by the Physical Science Study Committee. and giving the book away for free. CCBYSA licensed. 36 F. I have assumed that images that come from U. I have made use of images under the fair use doctrine. CCBY licensed. but that doesn’t mean you have permission to use it. (The 1927 version did not have its copyright renewed.. 75 Human crosssection: Courtesy of the Visible Human Project. 37 Threedimensional brain: R..” that means the copyright owner gave me permission to use it.N. No. so you should not assume that it’s legal for you to use these images. galaxy: see below. S. Ltd. 65 Doppler radar: Public domain image by NOAA. 68 Jet breaking the sound barrier: Public domain product of the U. it indicates that the ﬁgure is from the ﬁrst edition of the textbook entitled Physics. Corel Corp. 81 tympanometry: Perception The Final Frontier. CCBYSA licensed (Wikipedia). and are now therefore in the public domain. 68 X15: NASA. 4. 51 Marker on spring as pulse passes by: PSSC Physics.archive. modiﬁed by Wikipedia user Inductiveload and by B. 62 Fetus: Image of the author’s daughter.) Since it is possible that some of the illustrations in the 1927 version had their copyrights renewed and are still under copyright. Likewise. because I’m using the images for educational purposes. since products of federal agencies fall into the public domain. photographic reproductions of them are not copyrightable in the U. Crowell. 80 Xray image of hand: 1896 image produced by Roentgen. . 20 Jupiter: Uncopyrighted image from the Voyager probe. 33 Nimitz Freeway: Unknown photographer. Malladi. 87 Soap bubble: Wikimedia Commons.D. 50 Superposition of pulses: Photo from PSSC Physics. public domain. 13 Electric bass: Brynjar Vik. 44 Spider oscillations: Emile. and Vollrath. and the laws on fair use are vague. 61 Wavelengths of circular and linear waves: PSSC Physics. 64 Doppler eﬀect for water waves: PSSC Physics. 1975. but I don’t know the name of the artist or photographer. 67 Mount Wilson: Andrew Dunn. olekils at web. all the illustrations in this book are under my own copyright. A PLoS Biology Vol. I have only used them when it was clear that they were originally taken from public domain sources. I’ve included some publicdomain paintings. 94 Flute: Wikipedia user Grendelkhan. CCBYSA licensed. if the photo credit says “courtesy of . user Tagishsimon. federal government. I am not a lawyer.
selfcheck A: The energy of a wave is usually proportional to the square of its amplitude. The speed of a soft sound. and the period of the vibrations is independent of amplitude. making it more likely to break. selfcheck B: A substance is invisible to sonar if the speed of sound waves in it is the same as in water. Page 77. Light can be reﬂected either from the outer surface of the ﬁlm or from the inner surface. Page 88. Page 79. selfcheck A: The horizontal axis is a time axis. The velocity of a wave ordinarily only depends on the medium. The one with the highest Q will have the highestamplitude response to her driving force. A material object that loses kinetic energy slows down. i. The typical greenish color of the coatings shows that they do the worst job for green light. We see rainbow colors because the condition for destructive or constructive interference depends on wavelength. the trailing edge is moving down. but a wave is not a material object. Page 29. Answers to SelfChecks for Chapter 4 Page 77. Page 35. not the amplitude. so its energy is four times smaller after every cycle.e. Shrinking the amplitude does not make the cyles and faster. . Squaring a negative number gives a positive result. It loses three quarters of its energy with each cycle. Answers to SelfChecks for Chapter 3 Page 51. the thickness of the coating must be such that the second reﬂected wave train lags behind the ﬁrst by an integer number of wavelengths. selfcheck A: The leading edge is moving up. Optimal performance can therefore only be produced for one speciﬁc color of light. Reﬂections only occur at boundaries between media in which the wave speed is diﬀerent. selfcheck B: Energy is proportional to the square of the amplitude. one whose vibrations die out very slowly. so the energy is the same. 2. for example.. selfcheck D: 1.Appendix 3: Hints and Solutions Answers to SelfChecks Answers to SelfChecks for Chapter 2 Page 28. selfcheck C: She should tap the wine glasses she ﬁnds in the store and look for one with a high Q. We see a pattern that varies across the surface because its thickness isn’t constant. is the same as the speed of a loud sound. To get the best possible interference. and there can be either constructive or destructive interference between the two reﬂections. No. and the top of the hump is motionless for one instant. selfcheck C: No.
Instead of fo .. . the frequency is three times higher. is almost entirely transmitted. 4fo . 3fo . in which one quarter of a wave ﬁts. while another part. . Page 89. problem 3: Check: The actual length of a ﬂute is about 66 cm. 7fo . Three quarters of a wavelength ﬁt in the tube. 102 Appendix 3: Hints and Solutions . so the wavelength is three times shorter than that of the lowestfrequency mode. and at a particular place on the soap bubble. T = 2L/v. the pattern of wave frequencies of this air column goes fo . selfcheck F: The wave pattern will look like this: . . may be reﬂected strongly.White light is a mixture of all the colors of the rainbow. 3fo . selfcheck E: The period is the time required to travel a distance 2L at speed v. Since the wavelength is smaller by a factor of three. part of that mixture. . 5fo . say red. blue for example. 2fo . Page 94. Answers to Selected Homework Problems Solutions for Chapter 4 Page 96. The frequency is f = 1/T = v/2L. . .
19 principle of superposition. 81 wave longitudinal. 52 standing wave. 14 energy related to amplitude. 14. 91 Hooke’s law. 13 damping deﬁned. 79 amplitude deﬁned. 16 related to energy. 18 period of. 64 driving force. 27 comet. 91 steadystate behavior. 17 interference eﬀects. 57 longitudinal wave. 18 sound. 31 swing. 86 light. 29 . 19 Halley’s Comet. 28 Doppler eﬀect. 31 eardrum. 30 timbre. 91 period deﬁned. 15 pitch. 28 decibel scale. 27 exponential decay deﬁned. 31 Einstein. 58 work done by a varying force. 13 harmonics. 35 fundamental.Index absorption of waves. 91 tuning fork. 49 pulse deﬁned. 49 quality factor deﬁned. 16 peaktopeak. 29 Fourier’s theorem. 76 resonance deﬁned. Albert. 33 simple harmonic motion deﬁned. 91 FWHM. 17 tympanogram. 90 frequency deﬁned. 15 overtones. 35 Galileo. 58 motion periodic. 57 speed of. 17. 15 full width at halfmaximum. 13 reﬂection of waves.
104 Index .
Index 105 .
∆t m ρ v a g F P E P A T f λ Q FWHM (Centi.1 ∼ 1. a typical atom is about a million fm in radius. 10−2 .e. kg kg/m3 m/s m/s2 J/kg·m or m/s2 newton.5 newtons of force 2.Useful Data Metric Preﬁxes Mkmµ.00 × 108 m/s c = 340 m/s Subatomic Particles particle electron proton neutron mass (kg) 9. 1000 calories. s kilogram. For comparison. Relationships among U.2 poundsforce 4. units: 1 foot (ft) = 12 inches 1 yard (yd) = 3 feet 1 mile (mi) = 5280 feet 106 Index .(Greek mu) npfmegakilomillimicronanopicofemto106 103 10−3 10−6 10−9 10−12 10−15 The radii of protons and neutrons can only be given approximately. is used only in the centimeter.) The Greek Alphabet α β γ δ ζ η θ ι κ λ µ A B Γ ∆ E Z H Θ I K Λ M alpha beta gamma delta epsilon zeta eta theta iota kappa lambda mu ν ξ o π ρ σ τ υ φ χ ψ ω N Ξ O Π P Σ T Y Φ X Ψ Ω nu xi omicron pi rho sigma tau upsilon phi chi psi omega Conversions Nonmetric units in terms of metric ones: 1 inch 1 poundforce (1 kg) · g 1 scientiﬁc calorie 1 kcal 1 gallon 1 horsepower = = = = = = = 25.4 mm (by deﬁnition) 4. since they have fuzzy surfaces.S. Notation and Units quantity distance time mass density velocity acceleration gravitational ﬁeld force pressure energy power amplitude period frequency wavelength quality factor FWHM unit meter.18 × 103 J 3. J watt.18 J 4. 1 W = 1 J/s (varies) s Hz m unitless Hz symbol x.78 × 103 cm3 746 W Speeds of Light and Sound speed of light speed of sound c = 3. In writing. the capital C may be used to indicate 1 Calorie=1000 calories. the word “Calorie” is used to mean 1 kcal.1 When speaking of food energy.109 × 10−31 1. 1 N=1 kg·m/s2 1 Pa=1 N/m2 joule. ∆x t.. m second.01 ∼ 1. i.675 × 10−27 radius (fm) 0.673 × 10−27 1.
99 × 1030 radius (km) 6.7 × 103 7.0 × 105 radius of orbit (km) 1.97 × 1024 7. and Sun body earth moon sun mass (kg) 5. Moon.35 × 1022 1.Earth.84 × 105 — Index 107 .49 × 108 3.4 × 103 1.
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