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OSCILLATORY MOTION

A very special kind of motion occurs when the force acting on a body is proportional to the displacement of the body from some equilibrium position. If this force is always directed toward the equilibrium position, repetitive backand- forth motion occurs about this position. Such motion is called periodic motion, harmonic motion, oscillation, or vibration (the four terms are completely equivalent).

You are most likely familiar with several examples of periodic motion, such as the oscillations of a block attached to a spring, the swinging of a child on a playground swing, the motion of a pendulum, and the vibrations of a stringed musical instrument. In addition to these everyday examples, numerous other systems exhibit periodic motion. For example, the molecules in a solid oscillate about their equilibrium positions; electromagnetic waves, such as light waves, radar, and radio waves, are characterized by oscillating electric and magnetic field vectors; and in alternating-current electrical circuits, voltage, current, and electrical charge vary periodically with time.

Most of the material in this chapter deals with simple harmonic motion, in which an object oscillates such that its position is specified by a sinusoidal function of time with no loss in mechanical energy. In real mechanical systems, damping (frictional) forces are often present.

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