Oscillations are the repetitive variations of a physical quantity from it’s central or the axial value measured particularly in comparison with time. A vibration is a form of mechanical oscillation which is the to and from the motion of a sample under consideration from its mean position. The pendulum and the alternating current are the simplest examples of oscillations.
The physical phenomenon of oscillation is not limited to just mechanical systems but it can be observed in daily lives. Even the beating of the human heart is a form of oscillation. The business cycles in the field of economics are a form of oscillation. The periodic swelling of Cepheid Variable stars in the field of astronomy is also an example of oscillation.
The most important feature of oscillation is that it repeats itself. The body goes from its mean position to one extreme end and returns back to its mean position. In the second part of its cycle, the body goes from its mean position to the second and opposite extreme end and returns back to the mean position. When this phenomenon keeps on occurring time and again, it is called oscillations. The oscillations can be of various types ranging from simple harmonic motion to damped or forced vibrations.
When the number of degrees of freedom of the body under study becomes arbitrarily large and the system approaches continuity, the system tends to have uncountable normal modes. In such cases, the oscillations take the form of a wave which moves in a characteristic style. These continuous system or waves are a form of complex oscillations.
When an external stimulus or energy is supplied to a body, it gains energy and starts vibrating. At the start, the body has maximum energy and it travels maximum distance and thus, has a high amplitude. But as time increases, the energy of the body starts decreasing because of several factors like friction, wearing, etc. and the amplitude of the oscillations decrease gradually and comes to a stop after some time. The phenomenon of oscillations is necessarily a thermodynamically irreversible process in real-world. But the equation of the motion remains the same.
Some systems damp the oscillations to fulfil their specific requirements. These oscillations are known as damped oscillations. External agents are used to keeping the motion of the body under check. Similarly, in some cases, an external stimulus is given to the system to increase its amplitude which is known as forced oscillation.
Oscillations are used aptly in our daily lives in appliances like a vibrating massager, land leveller, swings in amusement parks, etc. A pendulum clock is also an example of an oscillating body.
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