[ Mathematics 256 home page ]

Third laboratory - Fall 2002

Due: Friday, 18 October, 2002 at 11:30 pm


For technical reasons, while working on this lab, you must not reload or leave this page within your web browser. If you do leave and want to come back again, you should quit your browser and restart it, either from the background menu or a terminal window. Also, save your answers frequently by using the submittor at the end of the page.

The part of the textbook relevant to this lab is Chapter 6 on spring problems.


The graph shows the solution of an undamped forced oscillator: $m y'' + k y = \cos(\omega t)$ with initial conditions y(0) = y'(0)=0. The blue vertical lines are at one second intervals. The radian frequency $\omega$ of the forcing can be adjusted with the slider.

Exercise 1

Design of a Measuring Instrument

A measuring instrument typically shows its value using a needle that swings across a scale. In some cases the needle may oscillate about the correct reading, and it may be some time until it settles down enough for an accurate reading to be made. On a typical bathroom scale, for example, this may take several seconds. In cases where speed and accuracy are important, such a delay may be unacceptable, and instruments should be designed to produce an accurate reading as quickly as possible.

We will model the measuring instrument as a mass on a spring. The equilibrium position represents the quantity to be measured. The mass m=1 and spring constant k=1 are given, but the damping constant c is under our control. The system will start at some value y(0)=y0 > 0 with y'(0)=0, and at some time we will take the measurement y(t). We want to be sure that y(t) is within .01 y0 of the equilibrium value 0. In order to ensure this, we should wait until some time t1, long enough that |y(t)| < = .01 y0 for all t > t1. It is not good enough just to have |y(t)| < .01 y0 at some time t if this is not always true later. We want to choose c to minimize t1.

In the applet below, we see part of the graph of the solution of the initial value problem y'' + c y' + y = 0,y(0) = 1, y'(0) = 0, as a function of t. The slider adjusts the value of c. The two green lines are y= 0.01 and y = -0.01. The blue vertical lines are at intervals of 1. If you click on the graph, the coordinates of the arrowhead where you clicked are shown at the top left.

Exercise 2


There is no reason in principle that you will not be able to submit your answers from home, but we cannot guarantee success. If a submission from within the Mathematics Department system is not successful, tell the TA.


Send questions about problems with submitter to the lab TA

Send mathematical questions about the labs to the professor in charge of Math 256: fournier@math.ubc.ca