Lectures on Physics has been derived from Benjamin Crowell's Light and Matter series of free introductory textbooks on physics. See the editorial for more information....

Summary - Vibrations

Periodic motion is common in the world around us because of conservation laws. An important example is one-dimensional 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 small-amplitude 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 always 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

Last Update: 2009-06-21