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Homework Help: Superposition problem help

  1. May 29, 2010 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    Two displacement waves with the same period T = 3.0 s are described mathematically by:

    y1 = (10.0 m) cos[2πt/T + π]
    y2 = (9.0 m) cos[2πt/T + 2π]

    What is the resultant displacement at time t = 6.0 s?

    3. The attempt at a solution

    I tried adding up

    y1 + y2 = 19 cos [2πt/T + 3π]

    But the answer I get is wrong. I also tried the following formula from my texybook which is supposed to give the resultant of two traveling sinusoidal waves:

    [tex]y=2Acos \left( \frac{\phi}{2} \right) sin \left( kx-\omega t + \frac{\phi}{2} \right)[/tex]

    I don't know what the phase constant (φ) is, so I assume it is zero since the waves are in phase, then cos(φ/2)=cos(0)=1.

    When I plug in the numbers the formula then becomes


    Again, this produces the wrong answer, the correct answer should be -1.0 m. What's wrong with my calculations? :confused:
  2. jcsd
  3. May 29, 2010 #2


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    Homework Helper

    Re: Superposition

    You can not do that!!!!!!! Try to think instead of plugging into equations you do not understand.

    Resolve the cosine terms. What is the relation between cos(x) and cos(x+2π)? between cos(x) and cos(x+π)?

  4. May 30, 2010 #3
    Re: Superposition

    Does this mean that they are out of phase? I think if one wave has phase constant φ=(2N)π and the other wave has φ=(2N+1)π, where N is any integer, then the two waves are not in phase, and therefore destructive interference occurs.

    What do you mean by "resolving" the cosine terms? :rolleyes:

    The "superposition principal" states that the resultant value of the wave functions of the wave function at any point is the algebraic sum of the values of the wave functions of the individual waves. This is what I was trying to do, in my problem do I need to somehow subtract thw two given wave functions?
  5. May 30, 2010 #4


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    Homework Helper

    Re: Superposition

    Well, my English is poor, especially in maths expressions. I meant to express both cos[2πt/T + π] and cos[2πt/T + 2π] with cos (2πt/T). Think of the definition of the cosine function.

    And you are right, y1 and y2 are out of phase.

    If you still do not get it, just plug in 6.0 s for t, calculate both y1 and y2 and add them.

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