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Two masses connected by spring, find period of oscillation

  1. Feb 2, 2013 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    Two masses are connected by spring and slide freely without friction along horizontal track. What is period of oscillation?


    2. Relevant equations



    3. The attempt at a solution

    My solution:
    let x1 be position of mass 1 (m1) and x2 be position of mass 2 (m2) and L be length of spring in equilibrium.
    Then, the total stretch of the spring is x2-x1-L. Also, F1 = -F2. Thus:

    m1(x1)'' = -k(x1 - x2 + L)
    m2(x2)'' = -k(x2 - x1 - L)

    Solving for x2 from first eqn and substituting back into second eqn yield:

    [itex]\frac{d^2}{dt^2}[\frac{m1 m2}{k}(x1)''+(m1+m2)x1][/itex] = 0

    I am unsure how to proceed from here, any hints? I would like to just multiply both sides by (dt^2)/d^2 but I am unsure if this is mathematically correct? It does simplify the problem though and gives me right answer...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 3, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2013 #2

    vela

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    You should be well aware that ##\frac{d^2}{dt^2}## isn't a fraction.
     
  4. Feb 3, 2013 #3
    I dont think you really need differential equations for this one, since there is no external force there is a point on the spring that neither stretches nor compresses. on either side of this point is 2 springs with different spring constants, so effectively you have two different oscillators, with the same period.
     
  5. Feb 3, 2013 #4

    vela

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    Do you know about reduced mass and how to convert a two-body problem into a one-body problem?
     
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