Simple Oscillating Systems We begin our study of oscillations by examining the general definition of an oscillating system. From this definition we can examine the special case of harmonic oscillation, and derive the motion of a harmonic system. Definition of an Oscillating System So what exactly is an oscillating system? In short, it is a system in which a particle or set of particles moves back and forth. Whether it be a ball bouncing on a floor, a pendulum swinging back and forth, or a spring compressing and stretching, the basic principle of oscillation maintains that an oscillating particle returns to its initial state after a certain period of time. This kind of motion, characteristic of oscillations, is called periodic motion, and is encountered in all areas of physics. We can also define an oscillating system a little more precisely, in terms of the forces acting on a particle in the system. In every oscillating system there is an equilibrium point at which no net force acts on the particle. A pendulum, for example, has its equilibrium position when it is
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