Fall 2018  -  Get temporary access to course materials (Amherst College and Five-college students only)

Oscillations and Waves

Listed in: Physics and Astronomy, as PHYS-125


Ashley R. Carter (Section 01)
Kannan Jagannathan (Section 01)


Phenomena that repeat over regular intervals of time and space play a fundamental role in many areas of physics and its applications. This course begins with a review of periodic oscillations of a simple harmonic oscillator, and proceeds to a discussion of a damped, driven, linear oscillator. Both mechanical and electrical oscillators will be discussed within a single mathematical framework. The course then turns to waves, including mechanical waves in solid, liquid, or gas media as well as electromagnetic waves. Classes of waves are distinguished, such as longitudinal and transverse as well as traveling and standing. General wave phenomena are discussed, including superposition, interference, and diffraction. Discussion of ray optics as a limiting case of wave optics leads to a simple description of reflection and refraction at plane and curved interfaces and to an understanding of simple optical instruments as well as the eye. The laboratory experiments on oscillations, mechanical waves and optics provide hands-on experience of the concepts discussed in the rest of the course. Optional topics include coupled oscillators and normal modes using matrix methods, and Fourier series and Fourier Transforms as tools for examining arbitrary signals and waves in terms of their harmonic components. Four hours of lectures and discussion and one three-hour laboratory per week. Fall semester.

Requisite: Physics 116/123 and Math 121 or consent of instructor. Limited to 24 students. Fall semester. Professor Carter and Professor Jagannathan.

If Overenrolled: Physics majors have priority, then sophomores, then first-year students.


Lab Science Course, Quantitative Reasoning


2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018