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Bullwhip wave mechanics: What changes?

  1. May 7, 2011 #1


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    What wave property changes as a bullwhip wave propagates toward the tip? Wavelength or amplitude?

    The problem seemed at first analogous to that of describing the behavior of a sound wave propagating through air of linearly decreasing density, except that sound is longitudinal.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2011 #2
  4. May 7, 2011 #3


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    This is one of those controversial issues that seesaws between rival camps: in this case the supersonic versus the non-supersonic factions. Even skilled whip crackers disagree. The best explanation I've found so far is here: http://home.comcast.net/~a-mcnibble/Rants/WhyWhipsCrack.pdf according to which it's the concentration of kinetic energy into a smaller and smaller whip segment that does it.
  5. May 7, 2011 #4


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  6. May 7, 2011 #5


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    Great link! Although I was more interested in the mechanics of a transverse wave in a variable medium (looking for cosmological implications) than in what happens at the end of a wave's transmission, I was being short sighted. The end may be the most important part of the problem. Thank you for the insight!
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