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25 March 2009


5:00 PM, 06 May 2009

There are 4 problems in total. Attempt all problems, showing all your work
neatly and in logical order.
Solutions will be posted online one week after the submission date, i.e., on
12 May 2009.
Any queries, contact

Dean McLaughlin
room: Lennard-Jones 1.49
phone: (01782) 73 4113
email: dem@astro.keele.ac.uk

1. A travelling wave is described by

y(x, t) = 0.2 ex3t sin(x + 3t)
for x and y measured in centimetres and t in seconds.
(a) Show explicitly that y(x, t) satisfies the one-dimensional wave equation. Deduce the
wave speed from this. What is the direction of propagation?
[6 points]
(b) Use the work from part (a) to show that the equation of motion at any fixed x is
2 y/ t2 + 6 y/ t + 18 y = 0
Thus, what kind of oscillation is associated with the wave?

[4 points]

2. A string of length L and total mass M is under a tension F . One end of it is fixed in
place at x = 0, while the other end is free to move up and down at x = L.
(a) Starting from the standard form of y(x, t) for a harmonic standing wave, derive the
wavelengths of the normal modes on this string: n = 4L/n. State clearly what values
of n are allowed. [Hint: x = 0 is a node but x = L is an antinode.] Obtain the normalmode frequencies fn in terms of L, M , F , and n , and write the full wavefunctions
in these terms (for arbitrary amplitude A). Sketch the first two allowed harmonics,
indicating the positions of all nodes and antinodes.
[6 points]
[continued on reverse . . . ]

(b) With L = 2 m and M = 8 g, the string supports the standing wave

y(x, t) = 0.03 sin(3.25 x) cos(162.5 t)
for x and y measured in metres and t in seconds. Find
particular harmonic ; (ii) the tension in the string.

(i) the value of n for this

[4 points]

3. The speed of longitudinal waves (sound) in a gas is given by v = B/ , where the bulk
modulus is defined as B V dP/dV , and the mass density is equal to the average
molecule mass hmi (in units of kg) times the number density of molecules N/V .
(a) If the fluctuations in the wave are adiabatic, so that P V = constant , prove that
B = P . Then assume an ideal-gas equation of state to obtain a formula for the
sound speed in terms of , hmi, temperature T , and Boltzmanns constant, k.
[6 points]
(b) Use the formula from part (a) to predict the speed of sound in (i) air (composition
80% N2 and 20% O2 ) at room temperature, T = 293 K ; (ii) a cloud of molecular
hydrogen (H2 ) in interstellar space, at temperature T = 10 K.
[4 points]
[The ratio of specific heats for a diatomic ideal gas is = 7/5 .]

4. (a) [Refer to Benson, Chapter 37.3] Monochromatic light illuminates two slits separated
by 1.2 mm, creating a fringe pattern on a screen 3.6 m from the slits. The distance
between the third and sixth dark fringes on the screen is 5.3 mm. What is the
wavelength of the light?
[5 points]
(b) [Refer to Benson, Chapter 38.2] The width of each slit in part (a) is a = 0.15 mm.
What is the width of the central diffraction maximum on the screen, and how many
bright fringes (i.e., interference maxima) are contained within it?
[5 points]