Experimental analysis of nonlinear oscillations in the undergraduate physics laboratory

Autores UPV
Revista European Journal of Physics


In this paper, we present a simple experiment to introduce the nonlinear behaviour of oscillating systems in the undergraduate physics laboratory. The transverse oscillations of a spring allow reproduction of three totally different scenarios: linear oscillations, nonlinear oscillations reducible to linear for small displacements, and intrinsically nonlinear oscillations. The chosen approach consists of measuring the displacements using video photogrammetry and computing the velocities and the accelerations by means of a numerical differentiation algorithm. In this way, one can directly check the differential equation of the motion without having to integrate it, or perform an experimental study of the potential energy in each of the analysed scenarios. This experiment allows first year students to reflect on the consequences and the limits of the linearity assumption for small displacements that is so often made in technical studies.