Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite

Edward F. Redish

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Spring vs. string

In this course, we analyzed the motion of a mass on a spring and the oscillations of a taut string. Discuss these two systems, explaining similarities and differences, and give an equation of motion for each.

Note to the instructor: We often treat the mass on a spring and the oscillating string in successive weeks in introductory physics. This can be quite confusing to students, especially since we breezily change notation on them. The variable "x" goes from being a dependent variable to an independent one marking the original (undisturbed) position of the various bits of the string. We move from one independent variable to two. This problem is a good starting point for a class discussion attempting to clarify these points.

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Page last modified October 31, 2002: O24