Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Physical Phenomena
Name: Unknown
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Around 1993


Question:
Can you give me examples of simple physical phenomena that are not functions? I can understand about discontinuous phenomena. But what phenomena have more than one y for any one x possibility fory at any one x?



Replies:
Well, the simplest thing I can think if is a circle. A circle has two y for every x, except where it does not have any at all (except at two special points). If a circle does not sound like a physical phenomenon, you might want to explain how light works. I light wave is a sinusoidal variation of electric and magnetic fields. If x is the electric field value and y is the magnetic field value, they trace out a circle as time goes on. In fact, many "orbits" are circular - for example, a plot of a harmonic oscillator (like a spring bouncing up and down) with x = displacement and y = velocity also will give you a circle.

Arthur Smith


There must be thousands! How about Lissajous figures from simple circuits? You hook an oscilloscope up to two components of a circuit which are oscillatory in time and plot one voltage as x, the other as y. All sorts of interesting closed curves result, depending on the phase difference and the frequency ratio between the two oscillators. Also, there is the phase diagram of water...but there is no simple equation associated with that, I know. I guess that I vote for the velocity (or momentum ) of a harmonic spring plotted against its position.

Topper



Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory