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Homework Help: Stationary Waves - Effect of Frequency and Amplitude

  1. Aug 18, 2011 #1

    As part of my Physics Class, we created a spreadsheet that animates to waves moving in opposite directions to illustrate standing waves. In order to test we were told to put the same values of amplitude, wavelength and speed (frequency was calculated from wavelength and speed) for both waves.

    Our assignment was to try different values for amplitude and wavelength (to change the frequency) for each wave and to describe the effect. For some reason however, excel goes crazy and it is hard to observe the effect after changing these variables.

    Even though the animation is not working I wanted to submit my predictions. I am not very sure, but this is what I think would happen:

    If we have different amplitudes for each wave and pick equal values for wavelength and frequency for each wave I think that, during constructive interference, the resulting amplitude would add as it did before but during destructive interference, instead of having a node at 0 displacement we would have a node at negative displacement.

    For different frequencies for each wave, I don't see how it would work because, from what I understand, it only works when the two waves are coherent, correct?

    Peter G.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2011 #2


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    With different amplitudes, you will certainly not get a zero for destructive interference, though I am not sure why you said it would be negative?????

    With different wavelengths [frequencies if you like] you certainly wont get a simple standing wave.
  4. Aug 18, 2011 #3
    Oh, yes, I got confused on the negative part. But it is correct to say that we would not get 0 displacement for standing waves with contrasting amplitudes?
  5. Aug 18, 2011 #4


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    The more I think about it the less I like it.

    If you have two waves travelling in opposite directions on a single string, they will form a, generally, complex interaction.

    In one very special case, we get an interaction which is simple to analyse and observe.

    If , and only if, the two waves have the same frequency [wavelength] and amplitude we get what is called a standing wave - which looks like segments of the string flopping backwards and forwards in a transverse way with no motion along the string - it is standing still.

    In the absence of that one specific set of conditions, I suspect there will be no standing wave, but a complex interaction.
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