Unformatted text preview: x is ym. Thus, the sine function with a timedependent phase
corresponding to the oscillation of a string element, and Figure 2 Diagram of the wavelength of a wave
the amplitude of the function corresponds to the http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/satmet/modules/spectrum/wa
velength.html
extremes of the element’s displacement.
2.4.2 Wavelength and Angular Wave Number
The wavelength λ of a wave is the distance (parallel to the direction of the wave’s travel)
between repetitions of the shape of the wave (or wave shape). A typical wavelength is shown in Figure 2.
The description of the wave shape from equation (4) can be expressed as ,0 sin (5) By definition, the displacement y is the same at both ends of this wavelength. This means that (6)
(7)
Thus by equation (5), we get
sin = sin (8)
(9) A sine function begins to repeat itself when its angle (or argument) is increased by 2π rad, so equation (9)
must have kλ=2π or 2 (10) We call k the angular wave number of the wave: its SI unit is the radian per meter, or the inverse meter.
(note that the symbol k here does NOT represent a spring constant as in the Simple Harmonic
Motion Lab.) 3 2.5 The Principle of Superposition for Waves
It often happens that two or more waves pass
simultaneously through the same region. When we listen to a
concert, for example, sound waves from many instruments fall
simultaneously on our eardrums.
Suppose that two waves travel simultaneously along the
same stretched string. Let y1(x,t) and y2(x,t) be the displacements
that the strings would experience if each wave traveled alone. The
displacement of the string when the waves overlap is the algebraic
sum , , , (11) This summation of displacements along the string means that Overlapping waves algebraically add to
produce a resultant wave (or net wave)
This is another example of the principle of superposition which Figure 1 Superposition of waves
says that when several effects occur simultaneously, their net www.wfu.edu/physics/pira/PhysicsDrawings.htm
effect is the sum of the individual effects.
Figure 1 shows the overlapping of two waves. As we can see, when the pulses overlap, the
resultant pulse is their sum. Moreover, each pulse moves through the other wave as if the other wave was
not present: Overlapping waves do not in any way alter the travel of each other.
2.6 Standing Waves
In the previous section, we discussed two sinusoidal waves of the same wavelength and
amplitude traveling in the same direction along a stretched string. What if they travel in opposite
directions? We again can find the resultant wave by applying the superposition principle.
The outstanding feature of the resultant wave is that there are places along the string, called
nodes, where the string never move...
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 Fall '09
 Physics, longitudinal waves

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