Seesawing of standing waves.

Improving one of the experiments run in the GEOF130 lab.

One experiment that has been run in GEOF130 forever is the “standing wave”, where a wave is excited in a long and narrow tank and then, for different water depths, the period is measured and the velocity calculated in order to compare it to the one calculated from the shallow water wave equation.

Traditionally, the standing wave is excited by lifting one end of the tank, letting the water settle down, and carefully putting the tank back down. This, however, means that someone has to lift a pretty heavy weight. So Pierre and I were quite proud of ourselves when we constructed a pulley system last year and now instead of lifting the weight up, someone could hang on a rope instead.

However, this was still hard work, and even though the picture shows a student doing the lifting, for most lab groups it was actually Pierre who did it.

But then this year, we came up with a much simpler solution and I don’t know how we didn’t see this before now. As Pierre remarked: We talk about seesawing standing waves ALL THE TIME. How did it not occur to us that the simplest setup would be a seesaw? So now we have two wooden blocks underneath the tank, one supporting it in the middle and one underneath the end where the operator is standing. So all that needs to happen now is a slight lift of the tank and then a slight downward push to bring it back in the horizontal.

So much easier!

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