Integrated SequencePhysics Chemistry Organic Biology

WikiPremed Resources

Module 2 in the Syllabus

Harmonic Cards
Chapter from the Wisebridge Learning System for Physics

Simple Harmonic Motion Images
Image gallery for study with links to larger teaching JPEGs for classroom presentation

Question Drill for Simple Harmonic Motion
Conceptual Vocabulary Self-Test

Basic Terms Crossword Puzzle

Basic Puzzle Solution

Overview of Simple Harmonic Motion
The topic of Simple Harmonic Motion gives us the tools to describe the motion of the frictionless mass-spring and the simple pendulum. Oscillatory motion occurs with these systems because when they are displaced from equilibrium, a force is produced proportional to the displacement from equilibrium. This 'restoring force' acts towards the equilibrium position of the system. However, when the system returns to its equilibrium point, it retains the kinetic energy associated with the work performed by the restoring force, and the mass-spring or the pendulum bob keeps going past equilibrium, which leads to restoring force from the other direction. Each cycle repeats. The mass-spring or pendulum oscillates.

Simple Harmonic Motion on the MCAT
The mass-spring and the simple pendulum are classic problems of Physics 101. There is no escaping them. You must go into the MCAT with a clear understanding of the behavior of these devices. However, the MCAT rarely presents you with the straight-forward model, being more apt to throw you something of a curve ball, such as a compound pendulum or a damped mass-spring. Never panic if the MCAT presents you with a complicated version of a simpler device you have learned. One of the main goals of MCAT preparation is to be prepared to apply fundamental principles within seemingly difficult contexts.

Conceptual Vocabulary
Simple harmonic motionSimple harmonic motion is the motion of a simple oscillator.
PendulumA pendulum is an object that is attached to a pivot point so it can swing freely.
AmplitudeThe amplitude is a nonnegative scalar measure of a wave's magnitude of oscillation, the magnitude of the maximum disturbance in the medium during one wave cycle.
FrequencyFrequency is the measurement of the number of occurrences of a repeated event per unit of time.
SpringA spring is a flexible elastic object used to store mechanical energy usually made out of hardened steel.
BobA bob is the weight on the end of a pendulum.
OscillationOscillation is the variation of some measure about a central value (often a point of equilibrium) or between two or more different states.
Harmonic oscillatorA harmonic oscillator is a system which, when displaced from its equilibrium position, experiences a restoring force proportional to the displacement.
HertzThe hertz is the SI unit of frequency. Its base unit is the cycle per second.
DampingDamping is any effect that tends to reduce the amplitude of oscillations of an oscillatory system.
Periodic functionA periodic function is a function that repeats its values after some definite period has been added to its independent variable.
PeriodicityPeriodicity is the quality of occurring at regular intervals or periods in time or space.
PhaseThe phase of an oscillation or wave is the fraction of a cycle corresponding to an offset in the displacement from a specified reference point at time t = 0.
VibrationVibration refers to mechanical oscillations about an equilibrium point. The oscillations may be periodic such as the motion of a pendulum or random such as the movement of a tire on a gravel road.
ResonanceResonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate at maximum amplitude at a certain frequency.
Small-angle approximationThe small-angle approximation is a useful simplification of the laws of trigonometry which is only approximately true for finite angles, but correct in the limit as the angle approaches zero.
IsochronousIsochronous means having an equal time difference or occurring simultaneously.
Double pendulumA double pendulum is a system of two simple pendulums on a common mounting which move in anti-phase.

The WikiPremed MCAT Course is a free comprehensive course in the undergraduate level general sciences. Undergraduate level physics, chemistry, organic chemistry and biology are presented by this course as a unified whole within a spiraling curriculum.

Please read our policies on privacy and shipping & returns.  Contact Us.
MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which does not endorse the WikiPremed Course.

Creative Commons License
The work of WikiPremed is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License. There are elements of work here, such as a subset of the images in the archive from WikiPedia, that originated as GNU General Public License works, so take care to follow the unique stipulations of that license in printed reproductions. You can use the resources here for commercial or non-commercial purposes, but please give attribution and a link to the production credits and edit history of the resource. For the works here which began as my individual work, please attribute "John Wetzel, an author at".