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Simple harmonic oscillations: Oscillations are periodic motions which centre around an
equilibrium position. Simple harmonic motion (SHM) is a special type of oscillation. For
 The simple pendulum
 The vibration of strings in a violin
 The spring-mass system, where the mass is initially displaced to produce a
periodic motion around the equilibrium position
An object undergoes SHM if it experiences a force which is proportional and opposite of the
displacement from its equilibrium position.

The period is independent of the amplitude of the SHM and can be given by the following
equation for a pendulum and mass spring

Time period, frequency, amplitude, displacement and phase


(x) Amplitude Period (T) Frequency (f) Phase difference
Number of
Displacement of times the object The difference
the oscillating oscillates per between two SHMs
object at a Maximum Time taken unit time with the same
specific time displacement for one (usually one frequency in terms
from its of the complete second) of their relative
equilibrium oscillating oscillation f=1/T position in a cycle
position object (in seconds) measured in radian
Conditions for simple harmonic motion

 When the body is displaced from equilibrium, there must exist a restoring force (a
force that wants to pull the body back to equilibrium).
 The magnitude of the restoring force must be proportional to the displacement of the
body and acts towards the equilibrium.

Travelling waves

A travelling wave is a continuous disturbance in a medium characterized by repeating

For example: A rope that is flicked up and down continuously creates a repeating
disturbance similar to the shape of a sine/cosine wave.
 Energy is transferred by waves.
 Matter is not transferred by waves.
 The direction of a wave is defined by the direction of the energy transfer.

Wavelength, frequency, period and wave speed

Wavelength, frequency, and period follow

the same rules of SHM.

Wave speed can be calculated by the

following equation
Transverse and longitudinal waves

Transverse waves Longitudinal waves

Direction of oscillation is perpendicular to The direction of oscillation is parallel to the
the direction of the wave. direction of the wave.
Example: water waves, electromagnetic Examples: wave produced in a spring,
waves, wave in a string flicked up and sound waves, earthquake P-waves.

Transverse wave Longitudinal wave

A point with maximum positive displacement is A region where particles are closed to each
called a crest. other is called a compression.
A point with minimum displacement is called a A region where particles are furthest apart
trough. from each other is called a rarefaction.

The nature of electromagnetic waves

 All EM waves travel in vacuum at the same speed of 3*10^8m/s.

 EM waves are transverse waves.
The nature of sound waves

 The speed of sound in 20 degrees Celsius dry air is approximately 343.2m/s.

 Sound waves are longitudinal waves.

Wave-fronts and rays

 Lines joining points which vibrate in phase.
 Can be straight lines or curves.
 The distance between successive wave fronts is the wavelength of the wave.
 Lines which indicate the direction of wave propagation.
 Rays are perpendicular to wave-fronts.
Amplitude and intensity

 The amplitude and intensity of a wave depends on its energy.

 The intensity of a wave is proportional to the square of its amplitude (I∝A^2).


The principle of superposition states that the net displacement of the underlying medium for a
wave is equal to the sum of the individual wave displacements.

The left shows constructive interference (superposition) where the two waves add up (e.g.
1+1 = 2). The right shows deconstructive interference (superposition) where the two waves
cancel each other (e.g. 1+ (-1) = 0).

 Light is a transverse wave (polarization only
occur to transverse waves).
 The polarization of light refers to the orientation
of the oscillation in the underlying electric field.
 Light is plane polarized if the electric field
oscillates in one plane.
 Left shows unpolarized light and right shows
polarized light.
Polarization by reflection
 When light is transmitted across a boundary between two mediums with different
refractive indexes, part of the light is reflected and the remaining part is refracted.
 The light reflected is partially polarized, meaning that it is a mixture of polarized light
and unpolarized light.
 The extent to which the reflected light is polarized depends on the angle of incidence
and the refractive index of the two mediums.
 The angle of incidence at which the reflected light is totally polarized is called the
Brewster’s angle (ϕ) given by the equation

where n1 and n2 are the refractive indexes for their respective


When the angle of incidence is equal to

Brewster’s angle, the reflected ray is totally
polarized and the reflected ray is
perpendicular to the refracted ray.

Polarizers and Analysers

 A polarizer is a sheet of material which polarizes light.
 When unpolarized light passes through a polarizer, its intensity is reduced by 50%.
 When polarized light passes through a
polarizer, its intensity will be reduced
by a factor dependent on the
orientation of the polarizer. This
property allows us to deduce the
polarization of light by using a
 A polarizer used for this purpose is
called an analyzer.
Malus’ Law relates the incident intensity and
transmitted intensity of light passing through
a polarizer and an analyzer.

where I is the transmitted intensity, I0 is the initial light intensity upon the analyzer, θ is
the angle between the transmission axis and the analyzer.
Reflection and refraction

Angle of incidence = Angle of reflection

Reflection of waves from a fixed end is inverted.

Reflection of waves from a free end is not inverted.

Refraction is the change in direction of a wave when it
transmits from one medium to another.

The angle of incidence and the angle of refraction can

be determined by Snell’s law given by the following

where n1 and n2 are the refractive

indexes for their respective mediums
Fast-to-slow: towards normal; slow-
to-fast: away from normal

In addition, the refractive index n1 and n2 are related by the

following equation where v1 and v2 are the speed of the waves
in their respective mediums and λ1 and λ2 are the wavelength
of the waves of their respective mediums.

Snell’s law, critical angle and total internal reflection

The refractive index and the critical angle are related by the
following equation. Total internal reflection only occurs when
the light ray propagates from an optically denser medium to
an optically less dense medium.

Diffraction through a single-slit and around objects

Diffraction through a single-slit

Diffraction around objects

Interference patterns
Maximums form at constructive interference (the maximum is shown by 1-2) and minimums
form at deconstructive interference (the first minimum is shown by 3-4).

Double-slit interference
Like single-slit diffraction, double-slit diffraction occurs via the same methods of interference
and has a similar diffraction pattern.
Path difference

Standing waves

The nature of standing waves

 Standing waves (stationary) waves result from the superposition of two opposite
waves which are otherwise identical.
 Energy is not transferred by standing waves.

A wave hits a wall and is

reflected identically opposite.

The black wave shows the wave

created by the superposition of
the blue and green waves.

Boundary conditions
 Air particles can oscillate and create standing waves in pipes with open or closed
 Antinodes are positioned at open ends and nodes are positioned at closed ends.
 Standing waves on a string is equivalent to that in a pipe which is closed on both ends
The following table summarizes the behaviour of standing waves in pipes and strings:

One closed end and one open

end Two closed ends Two open ends
1st Harmonic

2nd Harmonic

3rd Harmonic

nth Harmonic

(Note that even harmonics do

not exist for pipes with one nth Harmonic nth Harmonic
closed end and one open end) λ=2L/n λ=2L/n

Nodes and antinodes

 Positions along the wave which are fixed are called nodes (minimum) and those with
the largest displacement are called antinodes (maximum).
 For standing waves, the distance between adjacent nodes = the distance between
adjacent antinodes = λ/2.
Difference between standing waves and travelling waves

Standing waves Travelling waves

Ÿ No energy is propagated along a standing Ÿ Energy is propagated in a travelling wave
wave Ÿ A travelling wave has neither nodes nor
Ÿ A standing wave has nodes and antinodes antinodes

Ÿ The amplitude of the standing wave varies Ÿ The amplitude of the travelling wave is
along the wave constant throughout the wave

Ÿ Particles between two adjacent nodes Ÿ The phase difference between two particles
oscillate in phase and particles separated by of a travelling wave can take any value between
exactly one node oscillate in antiphase. 0 and 2π

Simple harmonic motion

The defining equation of SHM
By Newton’s Second Law, SHM can be defined as the following equations

where x0 is the amplitude (maximum displacement), x is the displacement, v is the

velocity, and a is the acceleration.

The angular frequency ( w ) is related to the period of the SHM

by the following equation
Energy changes
In a SHM, there is an interchange between
KE and PE throughout the motion.
However, the total energy remains constant.


 At maximum displacement, PE is at max while

 At zero displacement, KE is at max while PE=0
 At minimum displacement, PE is at max while
 Total energy (KE+PE) remains constant
throughout the motion

Single-slit diffraction
The nature of single-slit diffraction
 Special diffraction patterns appear when light is diffracted by a single slit which is
comparable to the wavelength of the light in size.
 We can represent this diffraction pattern by plotting the light intensity against the
angle of diffraction.
 The angle of diffraction for the first minimum θ can be given by

where λ is the wavelength and a is the size/length of the slit

where λ is the wavelength, m is the order

of the maximum, D is the distance of the
slits to the screen, and a is width of the
Young’s double-slit experiment

where λ is the wavelength, m is the order of the maximum, D is the distance of the slits
to the screen, and d is the distance between the two slits.
Modulation of two-slit interference pattern by one-slit
diffraction effect
The previously section shows an ideal double-slit which ignores the single-slit characteristics
of each of the two single-slits. A true double-slit would exhibit closely spaced dark and light
areas (fringes) superimposed over the single-slit pattern. The single-slit profile is said to
modulate the double-slit pattern.
Multiple slit and diffraction grating interference
Multiple slit interference patterns

Diffraction grating interference patterns

A diffraction grating is the tool of choice for separating the colors in incident light.
The condition for maximum intensity is the same as that for a double-slit. However, the
angular separation of the maxima is generally much greater because the slit spacing is
so small for a diffraction grating.

The equation

is the condition for angles at which constructive interference occurs (maximum) where
d is the distance between gratings and m is the order of the maximum.
Thin film interference
Interference between light waves is the reason that thin films, such as soap bubbles,
show colorful patterns.

The interference of light waves reflects off the top surface of a film with the waves
reflecting from the bottom of the surface.
 The size of a diffracting aperture
When light from a point source passes through a small circular aperture, it does not
produce a bright dot as an image, but rather as a diffused circular disc.

The greater the diameter of the diffracting aperture (such as the diameter of the pupil in
the human eye or the diameter of the lens in a telescope), the better resolved (clearer)
the image is.

 The resolution of simple monochromatic two-

source systems
Consider the diffraction pattern of two light beams diffracted by a single slit. These
patterns can be categorized as resolved, just resolved, or not resolved depending on the
separation between the images.

The Rayleigh criterion is when two points are just resolved. This is when the central
maximum of one image coincides with the first minimum of the other.

The minimum angular separation θ (in radians) for two points to be just resolved is
given by

where λ is the wavelength and a is the diameter of the circular aperture lens receiving
the image (see previous section).

Importance of resolution in technology
 CDs and DVDs: By using laser beams with shorter wavelength, we can improve
resolving power of the laser and increase the amount of data stored on the discs.
 Electron microscope: Short wavelength of electrons allows electron microscopes to
create images with very high resolution.
 Radio telescopes: Radio waves have long wavelengths so the aperture (satellite
dish) needs to be very large for a radio telescope to achieve good resolution.

9.5 – Doppler effect

 The Doppler effect for sound waves and light waves
Doppler equations for sound waves
The Doppler effect refers to the change in observed frequency of a wave due to the
movement of the observer and/or that of the wave source.

There are four Doppler effect equations for observed frequency depending on different

 Source moving towards observer at rest

 Source moving away from observer at rest

 Observer moving towards stationary source

 Observer moving away from stationary source

where f’ is the observed frequency of the wave emitted by the source and received by
the observer, f is the original frequency of the wave, v is the velocity of the wave, and v0
is the velocity of the observer.

Wavelength of the
Velocity of the wave wave Frequency of the wave
Moving observer Changes Constant Changes
Moving source Constant Changes Changes
Frequency observed changes according to the equation v=fλ.

Doppler equation for electromagnetic waves

where Δf is the change in frequency of the wave received by the observer as compared
to the original frequency emitted by the source, v is the velocity of the observer, c is the
speed of light, and f is the original frequency of the wave.

 This equation should only be used when the velocity of the observer is much smaller
than the speed of light (v<<c).< li="" style="box-sizing: border-box;"></c).<>
 Add Δf to f to obtain the observed frequency (f’) when the wave source and the
observer are moving towards each other.
 Subtract Δf from f to obtain the observed frequency (f’) when the wave source and
the observer are moving away from each other.
Application of the Doppler effect in speed detectors:

 A beam of electromagnetic wave is fired at the car.

 The frequency of the reflected wave is compared to that of the original wave beam.
A higher frequency indicates that the car is moving towards the detector and a
lower frequency indicates that the car is moving away from the detector.
 The speed of the car is calculated from the extent of shift in frequency by v=fλ.
Take note that the overall difference in frequency is 2Δf from the equation because the
wave travels to the car and then back to the speed detector.