# Physics 53. Wave Motion 1

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1 Physics 53 Wave Motion 1 It's just a job. Grass grows, waves pound the sand, I beat people up. Muhammad Ali Overview To transport energy, momentum or angular momentum from one place to another, one can give these mechanical properties to an object and send it to the destination. This is how they are transferred from a gun to a target by means of a bullet. But there is an indirect way. Microscopic particles of the source can interact with nearby particles, transferring energy, etc., to them. These particles in turn can transfer these quantities to their next neighbors, and so on down the line until the destination is reached. This kind of step-wise transmission is called wave motion. The particles occupying the intervening space and which pass along the energy, etc., constitute the medium for the transmission. These particles move back and forth only a little distance from their original positions, while the disturbance travels from the source to the receiver, which might be a very large distance. There are two distinct types of wave motion: Longitudinal waves. The particles in the medium move back and forth along the line traveled by the energy. Sound is an example of this kind of wave. Transverse waves. The particle motion is perpendicular to the line along which the energy moves. Waves on a stretched string is an example. So are electromagnetic waves, but in that case there is no intervening medium of particles, only the fields. Waves can be a combination of these types. In water waves, for example, the particles move around in circles. General description Waves in a string provide a useful example for analysis, because one can actually see the motion of the medium. PHY 53 1 Wave Motion 1

2 We consider a string stretched between two points on the x-axis, and subjected to a disturbance that displaces some of the particles in the y-direction. At t = 0 let the shape of the string be a curve given by the formula y = f (x). Because of the interaction between neighboring particles, the disturbance will be passed along the string. We will assume (as an approximation) that the shape of the disturbance does not change while it moves down the string. If the disturbance moves in the +x direction with speed v, then at time t the new shape of the string will be described by y = f (x vt), where f is the same function as before. Mathematically, it is just like moving the coordinate origin to the right by the amount vt. The situation is as shown. y = f(x,0) vt y = f(x,t) If the disturbance moves in the x direction with the same speed, the new formula will be y = f (x + vt). This is an important property of the functions describing waves: if the variables appear in the form x vt then the wave moves in the +x-direction; if the form is x + vt the wave moves in the x-direction. The function y(x,t) is called the wavefunction for the disturbance. For waves moving only along one line (the x-axis), such functions obey a simple relationship between second partial derivatives: 2 y 2 y x 2 = 1 v 2 t 2. PHY 53 2 Wave Motion 1

3 The partial derivative of a function that depends on two or more variables is calculated by holding all the variables except one constant. For example, in calculating y / x one treats t as a constant. This relationship is called the wave equation. Its solutions include the wavefunctions for any disturbance moving along the x axis with speed v. If the particles of any medium obey this equation, then they can support wave motion. It provides a mathematical test for the potential presence of waves. As will be described in the next course, Maxwell proved the existence of electromagnetic waves by showing that electric and magnetic fields, under the right circumstances, can obey the wave equation. When he examined the speed of these waves, it turned out to be the observed speed of light. He then guessed correctly that light itself must be an electromagnetic wave. The value of the speed v depends on the elastic and inertial properties of the medium. We will examine some important special cases below. Superposition The wave equation is an example of what mathematicians call a linear homogeneous partial differential equation of second order. The fact that it is linear (y and its derivatives appear only to first power) and homogeneous (every term contains y or one of its derivatives) implies a simple mathematical property of its solutions, which has important implications for the physics of wave motion. Suppose we can find two different solutions of the equation, y 1 and y 2. Then it is easy to show simply by substitution that y 1 + y 2 is also a solution. That is a mathematical property, but it has physical implications. In physical terms, each solution represents a possible wave motion in the medium, so y 1 and y 2 represent different physical waves. Since any solution of the wave equation represents a possible wave, it must be the case that y 1 + y 2 also represents a wave. This is general property of wave motion: Principle of superposition If y 1 and y 2 represent possible waves, then y 1 + y 2 also represents a possible wave. As we will see, the size of the wavefunction determines the amount of energy carried by the wave. Because the value of a wavefunction at any point and time can be negative as well as positive, the superposed wave y 1 + y 2 can be either larger or smaller (at a particular point and time) than either of the waves represented by y 1 and y 2. This can give rise to a redistribution of energy in space, called interference. It is this property that most clearly distinguishes the transport of energy and other quantities by waves from other methods of transport. PHY 53 3 Wave Motion 1

4 If two bullets arrive at the same target simultaneously, the energy they give to the target is simply the sum of their energies. If two waves arrive at a detector simultaneously the total energy delivered to the detector has a range of possible values, from less than the sum of the energies of the two waves to more than that sum. The precise value of the energy delivered depends not only on the energies of the individual waves but on their phase difference, as we will discuss later. The superposition principle can also be applied in reverse: one can decompose a complex wave into the sum of simpler waves. This is a very useful fact. Wave speeds The speed of waves in a medium depends on the elastic and inertial properties of the medium. The particles of the medium execute oscillatory motion about their equilibrium positions, so the relevant properties are those that determine the frequency of these oscillations. We give without proof the formulas for the speeds of two important types of waves: Transverse waves in a string: v = T µ ; Longitudinal waves in a gas (sound): v = γ RT M. In the first formula T is the string tension and µ is the mass per unit length of the string. In the second formula, T is the (absolute, or Kelvin) temperature, M is the molecular weight of the molecules of the gas, R is the universal gas constant, and γ is the ratio of specific heats. (These properties of gases will be discussed later.) The important points in these formulas: The speed of a wave in a string is proportional to the square root of the tension and inversely to the square root of the mass per unit length. The speed of waves in a gas (sound) is proportional to the square root of the absolute temperature and inversely proportional to the mass of the molecules. Harmonic waves The simplest kind of wave is one in which the particles all execute simple harmonic motion. This is a harmonic wave. If it moves in the +x direction, it is described by y(x,t) = Acos(kx ωt + φ). Harmonic waves are often also called "sinusoidal" waves. One could equally well use sine instead of cosine; that amounts only to a different choice of φ. PHY 53 4 Wave Motion 1

5 The quantity A, which gives the maximum value of y, is called the amplitude. The phase is the argument of the cosine, i.e., the quantity (kx ωt + φ). The initial phase φ is determined by the initial situation, i.e., the value of y for x = 0 and t = 0. Consider a harmonic wave in a string. At any instant the string follows a sinusoidal curve with distance λ (called the wavelength) between successive peaks. As time goes on, the particles at any point on the string execute SHM with frequency f. these quantities are related to the ones appearing in the formula as follows: The wave number k is related to λ by k = 2π /λ. The angular frequency is ω = 2π f. For a wave moving in the +x direction, x and t must appear in the combination x vt, so we can write (kx ωt) = k(x vt), which shows how the wave speed can be expressed in terms of the wavelength and frequency, by two alternate formulas: Speed of harmonic wave v = ω k = f λ Pure harmonic waves described by the above formulas would be infinite in extent, so they do not actually occur in nature. But they are important for two reasons: In a restricted region, some waves are well approximated by harmonic waves. Actual waves can be built up by superposition of harmonic waves of various wavelengths, frequencies and initial phases. Transport of energy To specify the transport of energy by a wave one uses a quantity called intensity, usually denoted by I: Intensity The intensity of a flow of energy is the power transported across unit area perpendicular to the flow. Another useful quantity is the energy density, which is the energy content of the wave per unit volume. We denote it by u. It is easy to show that these quantities are related to each other and to the wave speed v: PHY 53 5 Wave Motion 1

6 I = uv. We consider harmonic waves of angular frequency ω, moving with speed v, and give without proof the intensity and energy density formulas for two important cases: Elastic solids: u = 1 2 ρω 2 A 2, I = 1 2 ρvω 2 A 2. Here A is the amplitude of the strain and ρ is the mass per unit volume. A string is an elastic solid, with mass per unit length µ = ρa, where a is the cross-section area. Because a is usually quite small, in this case we usually talk about the total power Ia passing a point on the string. Fluids: u = P 0 2 2ρv 2, I = P 0 2 2ρv. Here P 0 is the "pressure amplitude", the maximum deviation of the pressure above the static pressure as the wave passes by. As before, ρ is the mass per unit volume. This case includes sound waves in gases. The most important feature of these formulas is a general rule of wave motion: Energy density and intensity are proportional to the square of the wave amplitude. These detailed formulas are given here for completeness. They are not much used in the problems. Reflection and transmission A wave passing from one medium to another where its speed is different divides into two parts. Part of the energy moves into the new medium in the form of a transmitted wave, moving at the speed appropriate to the new medium. The rest of the energy is sent backward in the original medium as a reflected wave, moving with the original speed. If no energy is absorbed by the medium, the total energy of the reflected and transmitted waves equals the energy of the incident wave, by conservation of energy. The figure below shows a string made of two parts joined together. The two parts have different mass per unit length, and therefore different wave speeds. (The tensions are the same.) A wave pulse is incident from the left, coming from string 1 toward string 2. PHY 53 6 Wave Motion 1

7 Figure (a) shows a possible result after the wave reaches the interface between the two parts: the reflected wave is on the same side of the string as the incident wave. (a) 1 2 Figure (b) shows another possibility: the reflected wave is inverted. (b) Both of these possibilities satisfy the requirement that the wavefunction and its slope be continuous at the point of intersection between the media (no breaks or kinks in the string). In both cases energy can be conserved. Which of these cases actually occurs? It depends on the wave speeds in the two media. The rule (given without proof) is simple: (a) If v 1 < v 2, the reflected wave is not Reflection at an interface inverted. (b) If v 1 > v 2, the reflected wave is inverted. The inversion of the reflected wave is represented by a change of sign of that part of the wavefunction. Since for any angle θ we have cos(θ + π ) = cosθ, this change of sign can also be accomplished by increasing the wave s phase by π. Rule (b) is often stated by saying the reflected wave undergoes a phase change of π. In a string larger mass density means lower wave speed, so if string 2 is less dense than string 1 case (a) applies, while if string 2 is more dense case (b) applies. A wall is very massive, so if a string is attached to a wall the reflected wave is always inverted. The situation is different for sound waves striking a wall. The speed of sound is greater in the solid wall than in air, so there is no phase change in the reflected sound wave. The fraction of incident energy that is reflected is given by the reflection coefficient R; the fraction transmitted is given by the transmission coefficient T. (Clearly R + T = 1.) If the wave energy moves normal to the interface surface as it does in a string one can derive simple formulas for R and T: R = v 1 v 2 v 1 + v 2 2, T = 4v 1 v 2 (v 1 + v 2 ) 2. PHY 53 7 Wave Motion 1

8 These properties apply to any kind of waves, including sound and light waves, as long as the energy strikes the interface perpendicular to the surface. For waves in a string reflected from a wall, v 2 is very small so nearly all of the energy is reflected. For sound waves striking a wall v 2 is very large, so again nearly all of the energy is reflected. In our applications we will assume R = 1 in such cases. PHY 53 8 Wave Motion 1

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