Physlets run in a Java-enabled browser, except Chrome, on the latest Windows & Mac operating systems. If Physlets do not run, click here for help updating Java & setting Java security.

# Section 12.1: The Classical Harmonic Oscillator

Please wait for the animation to completely load.

We begin by considering the classical simple harmonic motion of a mass on a spring. We have chosen the mass of the ball on the spring to be 0.5 kg and the spring constant to be 2 N/m **(position is given in meters and time is given in seconds)**. Given Hooke's law, we can write the force as *F _{x }*= −

*kx*in one dimension. This also allows us to write

*F*_{x }= *ma*_{x }= *m* *d*^{2}*x*/*dt*^{2} = −*kx*,

which using ω = (*k*/*m*)^{1/2}, can be written as

*d*^{2}*x*/*dt*^{2 }= −ω ^{2}*x* . (12.1)

This equation has the general solution *x*(t) = *A*cos(ω*t*) +* B*sin(ω*t*), where the coefficients *A* and *B* are determined by the initial conditions (*x*_{0} and v_{0}).

Animation 1 shows the graphs of kinetic and potential energy versus time. They have the form of cos^{2} (the potential energy) and the form of sin^{2} (the kinetic energy). We know from simple harmonic motion that if the object is initially displaced from equilibrium with no initial velocity that the solution to the above equation is

*x* = *x*_{0}cos(ω*t*) and v = *dx*/*dt* = −ω*x*_{0}sin(ω*t*). (12.2)

Given the form of the kinetic energy (*T*) and the potential energy (*V*), we have that

*T*(*t*) = (*kx*_{0}^{2}/2) sin^{2}(ω*t*) and V(*t*) = (*kx*_{0}^{2}/2) cos^{2}(ω*t*).

Animation 2 shows the graphs of kinetic and potential energy vs. position. The potential energy can be found from

*V* = −∫ *F dx* = (1/2)*kx*^{2} = (1/2)*m*ω^{2}*x*^{2}.

Since the total energy is the sum of the kinetic and the potential energies, we have that

E = *p*^{2}(*t*)/2*m *+* m*ω^{2}*x*^{2}(*t*)/2. (12.3)

In the animation, the energy starts out all potential, at the equilibrium position the energy is all kinetic, and at maximum compression the energy is all potential again. The classical particle on a spring is never allowed beyond the point where all of its energy is potential (otherwise its kinetic energy would be negative), as it is classically forbidden.

Original script authored by Morten Brydensholt, Wolfgang Christian, and Mario Belloni.

next »