Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite

Edward F. Redish

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What's wrong with cos?

Observation of the oscillation of a mass on the end of a spring reveals that the detailed structure of the position as a function of time is fit very well by a function of the form

x(t) = A cos(wt + f).

Yet subsequent observations give convincing evidence that this cannot be a good representation of the motion for long time periods. Explain what observation leads to this conclusion and resolve the apparent contradiction.

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Page last modified October 30, 2002: O13