Physics of Oscillations
Author's home page

Physics of Oscillations

Lecture Demonstrations and a Virtual Lab for Undergraduate Students

Russian version

Welcome to the wonderful world of oscillations! Oscillations are found everywhere in physics. A basic understanding of the general laws of oscillations has wide applications.

Oscillations in various physical systems may differ in physical nature, but they also have much in common. It is easier to understand common laws of oscillation processes if we analyze them in the most plain and clear examples, e.g., in mechanical systems that are accessible to direct visual observation. For this purpose, the simulation experiments in the PHYSICS OF OSCILLATIONS deal with well-known mechanical systems such as the spring harmonic oscillator and the simple pendulum.

The simulation programs of the package (Java applets) allow the user to study natural (or free) oscillations, forced oscillations, and parametric oscillations in simple linear and nonlinear systems. The simulations are based on adequate mathematical models of the investigated physical systems.

The software is developed as a kind of desk-top laboratory for lecture demonstrations and student's individual interactive work. It can be used as a supplementary curriculum aiding traditional forms of learning physics at a wide range of levels. The software can be adapted to meet the needs of many physics courses and provides an instructor with powerful tools of teaching physics. Each lab work and demonstration includes a User's Manual that gives reference on the theory of the simulated phenomena and suggests activities.

Java applets are run by web browsers (with Java plugin installed) under security restrictions to protect the user. In case you have Java 7 or Java 8 installed on your machine, trying to run Java applications generates a message:

  • Java applications blocked by your security settings.
As a workaround, you can use the Exception Site List feature of your operating system to run the applications blocked by security settings. Adding the URL of the blocked application (applet) to the Exception Site List allows the applet to run with some warnings.

Steps to Add URLs to the Exception Site list:

  • Go to the Java Control Panel (On Windows click Start, then Control Panel, and find Java there).
  • Click on the Security tab of the Java Control Panel.
  • Click on the Edit Site List button.
  • Click Add in the Exception Site List window.
  • Click in the empty field under the Location field to enter the URL.
  • Type in (or paste) the required URL that hosts the applet, namely
  • Click OK to save the URL that you entered.
  • Continue on the Security Warning dialog.
  • Reload the web page with the applet.


The package PHYSICS OF OSCILLATIONS includes the following lecture demonstrations and lab works:

Instead of running the applets, you can download the executable jar file (Java archive) OscillationsE.jar in which all the simulations are packaged. When you start it, the list of available (above mentioned) simulations appears. Select the simulation you need from this list, and start it together with the relevant web page (from the list above), which gives the description of the simulated physical system.

The computation experiments of the package are easy to understand due to their plain and clear character. The simulations provide the capability to observe repeatedly and thoroughly the fine details of the investigated phenomena that usually escape notice during direct observation. Users can widely modify parameters of the physical system and the initial conditions. The graphic presentation of the experimental results allows students to see and easily understand large amounts of information.

At first acquaintance with each of the programs you can open the list of predefined examples (by using the check-box under the image of the system). These examples illustrate the most typical kinds of motion of the simulated system. Choosing an example from the list, you need not enter the values of parameters required for the illustrated mode – they will be assigned automatically.

The panel on the right-hand side of the system image allows you to vary parameters of the system and the initial conditions. You can change the values either by dragging the sliders, or by typing the desired values from the keyboard (editing the corresponding number fields).

Before proceeding to work with each lab, the student is recommended to repeat or study the relevant learning material with the help of the Manual included in each lab (in pdf format). The manual presents a summary of the relevant theory and suggests certain activities (in particular, solving problems with subsequent verification of the theoretical solutions by simulation experiments).

The applets are created with the help of Easy Java Simulations tool developed by Francisco Esquembre, professor of Murcia University, Spain.

Additional (optional) learning material can be found in the following papers:

To the top

Author's home page

Physics of Oscillations – a Virtual Lab