Up to this point we have only examined the special case in which the net force on an oscillating particle is always proportional to the displacement of the particle. Oftentimes, however, there are other forces in addition to this restoring force, which create more complex oscillations. Though much of the study of this motion lies in the realm of differential equations, we will give at least an introductory treatment to the topic.
In most real physical situations, an oscillation cannot go on indefinitely. Forces such as friction and air resistance eventually dissipate energy and decrease both the speed and amplitude of oscillation until the system is at rest at its equilibrium point. The most common dissipative force encountered is a damping force, which is proportional to the velocity of the object, and always acts in a direction opposite the velocity. In the case of the pendulum, air resistance always works against the motion of the pendulum, counteracting the gravitational force, shown below.
We denote the force as Fd, and relate it to the velocity of the object: Fd = - bv, where b is a positive constant of proportionality, dependent on the system. Recall that we generated the differential equation for simple harmonic motion using Newton's Second Law:
|- kx - b = m|
|x = xme-bt/2mcos(σâ≤t)|
The study of damped harmonic motion could be a chapter in and of itself; we have simply given an overview of the concepts that give rise to this complex motion.
The second example of complex harmonic motion we will examine is that of forced oscillations and resonance. Up to this point we have only looked at natural oscillations: cases in which a body is displaced and then released, subject only to natural restoring and frictional forces. In many cases, however, an independent force acts on the system to drive the oscillation. Consider a mass spring system in which the mass oscillates on the spring (as usual) but the wall to which the spring is attached oscillates at a different frequency, as shown below:
Usually the frequency of the external force (in this case the wall) differs from the frequency of the natural oscillation of the system. As such, the motion is quite complex, and can sometimes be chaotic. Considering the complexity, we will omit the equations governing this motion, and simply examine the special case of resonance in forced oscillations.