## A Transverse Wave on a String – Part One – The Wave Equation

In Physics of Waves  by William C. Elmore and Mark A. Heald the book begins by looking at waves with the derivation of the formula for motion of a Transverse Wave on a string. In exploring wave phenomena, this material is a good starting point for comprehending both the physics and the mathematics of waves.

The problem is to find the mathematical formulae to describe the motion on a taught string due to a temporary displacement of the string. The string may be treated as a continuous media of linear density $\large{\lambda_0}$ with a constant tension $\large{\tau_0}$. The string is displaced in the vertical direction $\eta$.

Figure 1 – Initial Displacement of a taut string

The tension makes an angle $$\alpha_1$$ to the unperturbed path of the string at the point of $$\eta_1$$ displacement and the tension makes an angle $$\alpha_2$$ to the unperturbed path of the string at the point of $$\eta_2$$ displacement.

$\tau_0$ is constant.

$\alpha_1<<1$  and $\alpha_2<<1$

Looking at the sum of the forces in the y-direction:

$F_y=\tau_0\sin\alpha_2-\tau_0\sin\alpha_1$

Due to the small angles

$\sin\alpha_i\approx\tan\alpha_i$

Noting the relationship in Figure 2

Figure 2 – Relationship for each angle relating the change in eta and x

Note from this relationship:

$\tan\alpha_i=\frac{\partial\eta_i}{\partial{x}}$

This can be placed into the equation for the force in the y-direction:

$F_y=\tau_0\frac{\partial\eta_2}{\partial{x}}-\tau_0\frac{\partial\eta_1}{\partial{x}}$

Looking at the sum of the forces in the x-direction:

$F_x=\tau_0\cos\alpha_2-\tau_0\cos\alpha_1$

The small angles mean $\cos\alpha_2\approx1$ and $\cos\alpha_1\approx1$

Thus

$F_x=1-1=0$

The only net force is in the y-direction. Using Newton’s second law all of these equations can be combined.

Setting this equal to the force in the y-direction and taking the limit as $\Deltax$ approaches zero.

Note taking the limit gives the definition of the derivative which generates the second partial derivative with respect to x.

This is called the wave equation the next post will explore properties of this equation.

### Code Used to Generate Images

Python Code To Generarte Figure 1


#!/usr/bin/env python3

import numpy as np
import matplotlib.patches as pts
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Use matplotlib to generate the graphic for the
# http://www.physics-geek.us discussion on transverse waves

# Using double sided gaussian to show path of the plucked of the string
x = np.linspace(-1, 15, 512)

f = np.piecewise(x,
[x < 8, x >=8],
[lambda x: (25/(np.sqrt(2*np.pi)))*(np.exp(-((x-8)**2/40)))-1.5,
lambda x: (18/(np.sqrt(2*np.pi)))*(np.exp(-((x-8)**2/5)))+1.3])

# The tension vector in the positive direction. By components.

XP = 5.3
YP = 6.8
UP = 1.6
VP = 1.8

# The tension vector in the negative direction.

XN = 1.1
YN = 1.5
UN = -1.6
VN = -1.8

# Define lines measuring eta1 and eta2

xeta1 = [5.3, 10.0]
yeta1 = [6.8, 6.8]

xeta2 = [-2.0, 1.1]
yeta2 = [1.5, 1.5]

# Define lines measuring x1 and x2

x1 = [5.3, 5.3]
y1 = [6.8, 0.0]

x2 = [1.1, 1.1]
y2 = [1.5, 0.0]

# set up the plotting space

fig = plt.figure()

# Plot the path of the string
ax.plot(x, f)

# Plot the tension vectors

ax.arrow(XP, YP, UP, VP, fc="k", ec="k",
ax.arrow(XN, YN, UN, VN, fc="k", ec="k",

# Plot lines for eta and x

ax.plot(xeta1, yeta1, 'k--')
ax.plot(xeta2, yeta2, 'k--')
ax.plot(x1, y1, 'k--')
ax.plot(x2, y2, 'k--')

# Plot the angles of deflection

alpha1 = pts.Arc([5.3, 6.8], 2.0, 2.0, angle=0, theta1=0, theta2=51)
alpha2 = pts.Arc([1.1, 1.5], 2.0, 2.0, angle=0, theta1=180, theta2=231)

# Labels for graph

plt.text(1.2, 0.6, r'$\eta_1$', fontsize=16)
plt.text(5.8, 4.6, r'$\eta_2$', fontsize=16)
plt.text(-1.0, 9.0, r'$\eta$', fontsize=16)
plt.text(15.0, -1.0, r'$x$', fontsize=16)
plt.text(-2.0, -1.0, r'$\tau_0$', fontsize=16)
plt.text(7.0, 9.0, r'$\tau_0$', fontsize=16)
plt.text(6.3, 7.1, r'$\alpha_2$', fontsize=16)
plt.text(-1.1, 0.8, r'$\alpha_1$', fontsize=16)

# The code for removing the axis and replacing with arrows came from
# Used with permission from Felix

xmin, xmax = ax.get_xlim()
ymin, ymax = ax.get_ylim()

ymin = ymin
ymax = ymax

# removing the default axis on all sides:
for side in ['bottom','right','top','left']:
ax.spines[side].set_visible(False)

# removing the axis ticks
plt.xticks([]) # labels
plt.yticks([])
ax.xaxis.set_ticks_position('none') # tick markers
ax.yaxis.set_ticks_position('none')

# wider figure for demonstration
fig.set_size_inches(6,4)

# get width and height of axes object to compute
# matching arrowhead length and width
dps = fig.dpi_scale_trans.inverted()
bbox = ax.get_window_extent().transformed(dps)
width, height = bbox.width, bbox.height

# manual arrowhead width and length
hw = 1./20.*(ymax-ymin)
hl = 1./20.*(xmax-xmin)
lw = 1. # axis line width
ohg = 0.3 # arrow overhang

# compute matching arrowhead length and width
yhw = hw/(ymax-ymin)*(xmax-xmin)* height/width
yhl = hl/(xmax-xmin)*(ymax-ymin)* width/height

# draw x and y axis
ax.arrow(xmin, 0, xmax-xmin, 0., fc='k', ec='k', lw = lw,

ax.arrow(0, ymin, 0., ymax-ymin, fc='k', ec='k', lw = lw,
plt.show()



Python Code to Generate Figure 2


#!/usr/bin/env python3

import numpy as np
import matplotlib.patches as pts
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Use matplotlib to generate the graphic for the
# http://www.physics-geek.us discussion on transverse waves

# set up the plotting space

fig = plt.figure()

# plot tension vector
XP = 0.0
YP = 0.0
UP = 1.0
VP = 1.0
ax.arrow(XP, YP, UP, VP, fc="k", ec="k",

# plot eta

xeta1 = [1.0, 1.0]
yeta1 = [1.0, 0.0]
ax.plot(xeta1, yeta1, 'k--')

# plot x

x1 = [0.0, 1.0]
y1 = [0.0, 0.0]
ax.plot(x1, y1, 'k--')

# plot the angle arch
alpha1 = pts.Arc([0.0, 0.0], 0.25, 0.25, angle=0, theta1=0, theta2=45)

# plot the labels
plt.text(0.12, 0.05, r'$\alpha_i$', fontsize=16)
plt.text(1.025, 0.45, r'$\partial \eta$', fontsize=16)
plt.text(0.5, -0.1, r'$\partial x$', fontsize=16)
# The code for removing the axis and replacing with arrows came from
# Used with permission from Felix

xmin, xmax = ax.get_xlim()
ymin, ymax = ax.get_ylim()

ymin = ymin
ymax = ymax

# removing the default axis on all sides:
for side in ['bottom','right','top','left']:
ax.spines[side].set_visible(False)

# removing the axis ticks
plt.xticks([]) # labels
plt.yticks([])
ax.xaxis.set_ticks_position('none') # tick markers
ax.yaxis.set_ticks_position('none')

# wider figure for demonstration
fig.set_size_inches(6,4)

plt.show()