12 Superposition

Pressure Nodes and Antinodes

I modified the progressive sound wave interactive into a stationary wave version.

This allows students to visualise the movement of particles about a displacement node to understand why pressure antinodes are found there.

Usually I will pose this question to students: where would a microphone pick up the loudest sound in a stationary sound wave? Invariantly, students will say it is at the antinode. When asked to clarify if it is the displacement antinode or pressure antinode, students then become uncertain.

According to Young & Geller (2007), College Physics 8th Edition, Pearson Education Inc. (pg 385), microphones and similar devices usually sense pressure variations and not displacements. In other words, the position within a stationary sound wave at which the loudest sound is picked up is at the displacement nodes which are the pressure antinodes.

For an alternative animation, check out Daniel Russell’s.

For embedding into SLS, please use the following code:

<iframe scrolling="no" title="Stationary Sound Wave (Displacement and Pressure)" src="https://www.geogebra.org/material/iframe/id/xbknrstt/width/640/height/480/border/888888/sfsb/true/smb/false/stb/false/stbh/false/ai/false/asb/false/sri/false/rc/false/ld/false/sdz/true/ctl/false" width="640px" height="480px" style="border:0px;"> </iframe>

Noise-cancelling AirPod Pro

The recently launched Apple AirPod Pro presents a wonderful opportunity to relate an A-level concept to a real-world example – how noise-cancelling earphones work.

Apple’s website explained it in layman terms that seem to make sense. Let your students attempt to do a better job of explaining how destructive interference of waves is applied.

I probably won’t spend SGD379 on it though.

Phase Difference GeoGebra Apps

I created a series of GeoGebra apps for the JC topics of Waves and Superposition, mainly on the concept of Phase Difference. The sizes of these GeoGebra apps are optimised for embedding into SLS. When I have time, I will create detailed instructions on how to create such apps. Meanwhile, feel free to use them.

Instructions on how to embed the apps into SLS can be found in the SLS user guide.

Phase difference between two particles on a progressive wave. Move the particles along the wave to see the value.

Phase difference between two particles on a stationary wave. Move the particles along the wave to observe how their velocities are different or similar.

Observe velocity vectors of multiple particles on a progressive wave.

Microwave Standing Waves

In the last tutorial, we were talking about the typical wavelength of different categories of electromagnetic waves. To help us remember the typical wavelength of microwaves, I suggest that we familiarise ourselves with a popular science experiment involving stationary microwaves in an oven.

Watch the following video from 2 min 20 sec to see how the experiment is conducted and how the wavelength of microwave can be measured after determining the distance between two adjacent nodes (the wavelength will be twice that distance). Therefore, the typical wavelength of microwaves will be of the order of magnitude of several centimetres.

Pressure Variation in Stationary Sound Waves

For sound waves, we learnt that the compressions (position of maximum pressure) and rarefactions (minimum pressure) occur at the equilibrium position of the displacement of particles. This suggests that the pressure would vary the most in a stationary wave at the nodes of displacement. Right in the middle between two adjacent displacement nodes is the displacement antinode and we should expect the pressure variation to be the minimum there.

A displacement node is a pressure antinode.
A displacement antinode is a pressure node.

The standing waves associated with resonance in air columns can, therefore, be visualized in terms of the pressure variations in the column. Daniel A. Russell from The Pennsylvania State University made a wonderful animation showing how the variation of pressure occurs along an air column. (Link here)

Animations courtesy of Dr. Dan Russell, Grad. Prog. Acoustics, Penn State.

It is a common misconception, even among physics teachers, that if a microphone is moved along the air column, it will pick up the loudest sounds at the displacement antinodes. However, according to Young & Geller (2007), College Physics 8th Edition, Pearson Education Inc. (pg 385), microphones and similar devices usually sense pressure variations and not displacements. In other words, the position within a stationary sound wave at which the loudest sound is picked up is at the displacement nodes which are the pressure antinodes.

Update: I made a GeoGebra interactive version of this animation of a stationary longitudinal wave.

Also check out my animation for a progressive longitudinal wave.