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Vibrations and Waves

Course Summary

This course is based on 8.03 Physics III: Vibrations and Waves, Fall 2004 made available by Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.
This is another course conducted by Prof. Walter Lewin at MIT well-known for his dynamic and engaging teaching style. In addition to the traditional topics of mechanical vibrations and waves, coupled oscillators, and electro-magnetic radiation, students will also learn about musical instruments, red sunsets, glories, coronae, rainbows, haloes, X-ray binaries, neutron stars, black holes and big-bang cosmology.

(10 Oct 2011 - Updated)

In the following video, Prof. Walter Lewin gives an overview of this course.

Get the Flash Player to view video.

Reading Material

1. Textbook: Vibrations and Waves
French, A. P. Vibrations and Waves. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company, January 1, 1971. ISBN: 9780393099362.

2. Textbook: Electromagnetic Vibrations, Waves and Radiation
Bekefi and Barrett. Electromagnetic Vibrations, Waves and Radiation. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, September 15, 1977. ISBN: 9780262520478.

Course Material

1. Assignments
Problem sets and solutions from 8.03 Physics III: Vibrations and Waves, Fall 2004 (MIT OCW).

Two students, Tarun Agarwal and Igor Sylvester, contributed to the development of the assignment solutions. Used with permission.

Problem Set 1 (PDF) (PDF)  
Problem Set 2 (PDF) (PDF) Problem 2.1 - Take-home experiment 1: Influence of the Mass on Damping (PDF)
Problem Set 3 (PDF) (PDF) Problem 3.1 - Take-home experiment 2: Coupled Oscillators, Resonance, and Normal Modes (PDF)
Problem Set 4 (PDF) (PDF)  
Problem Set 5 (PDF) (PDF)  
Problem Set 6 (PDF) (PDF)  
Problem Set 7 (PDF) (PDF)  
Problem Set 8 (PDF) (PDF)  
Problem Set 9 (PDF) (PDF)  
Problem Set 10 (PDF) (PDF) Problem 10.3 - Take-home experiment 6: Thin Film Interference (PDF)
Problem Set 11 (PDF) (PDF) Problem 11.1 - Take-home experiment 9: Transmission Grating (PDF)

Note: The full set of Take-Home Experiments can be reviewed here, even though only experiments 1, 2, 6, and 9 are used in this course.

2. Quizzes and exams
Quizzes and exams questions and solutions from 8.03 Physics III: Vibrations and Waves, Fall 2004 (MIT OCW).

Mini-Quizzes with Solutions

L2 Mini-Quiz 1 (PDF)
L4 Mini-Quiz 2 (PDF)
L6 Mini-Quiz 3 (PDF)
L8 Mini-Quiz 4 (PDF)
L11 Mini-Quiz 5 (PDF)
L13 Mini-Quiz 6 (PDF)
L15 Mini-Quiz 7 (PDF)
L17 Mini-Quiz 8 (PDF)
L18 Mini-Quiz 9 (PDF)
L20 Mini-Quiz 10 (PDF)


Exam # Formula sheets Solutions
Exam 1 (PDF) (PDF) (PDF)
Exam 2 (PDF) (PDF) (PDF)
Final Exam (PDF) (PDF) (PDF)

Other Resources

1. Lecture slides from a similar course offered by MIT OpenCourseware
The following are lecture slides from a similar course offered by MIT OpenCourseware - 8.03 Physics III, Spring 2003.
  • Introduction to Vibrations and Waves: Course Overview (PDF)
  • Simple Harmonic Motion (PDF)
  • Harmonically Driven Damped Harmonic Oscillator (PDF)
  • Complete Solution to the Harmonically Driven Oscillator(PDF)
  • Coupled Oscillators (PDF)
  • Driven Coupled Oscillators (PDF)
  • The Wave Equation, Solutions to the Wave Equation (PDF)
  • Boundary Conditions Applied to Pulses and Waves (PDF)
  • Wave Equation in 2D and 3D, Time-independent Fourier Analysis (PDF)
  • Fourier Analysis (PDF)
  • Fourier Analysis with Traveling Waves, Dispersion (PDF)
  • Electromagnetic Wave Equation (PDF)
  • Plane polarized EM Waves (PDF)
  • Dipole Radiation (PDF)
  • EM Waves Meet Conductors, Transmission Lines (PDF)
  • EM Waves Meet Conductors, Waveguides (PDF)
  • EM Waves Meet Dielectrics (PDF)
  • Interference (PDF)
  • Interference from Multiple Sources (PDF)
  • Diffraction (PDF)
  • Diffraction + Interference, Diffraction Gratings (PDF)

2. Experiments from the course 8.03 Physics III Spring 2003
Students are provided with experiment kits and this instruction manual for doing several carefully designed experiments relevant to the course material at home. The purpose of these experiments is to give a first hand knowledge of some of the simple physical phenomena associated with vibrations and waves.

Take Home Experiments Instruction Manual Table of Contents (PDF)

  • Experiment #1: Influence of Mass on Damping of a Pendulum (PDF).
  • Experiment #2: Coupled Oscillator, Resonance, and Normal Modes (PDF).
  • Experiment #3: Vibrating String: Resonance in a Continuous System (PDF).
  • Experiment #4: Scattering of Light (PDF).
  • Experiment #5: Reflection of Light: The Fresnel Equations (PDF).
  • Experiment #6: Thin Film Interference, Dry (PDF).
  • Experiment #7: Thin Film Interference, Wet (PDF).
  • Experiment #8: Diffraction of Light (PDF).
  • Experiment #9: Transmission Grating (PDF).


Not available.



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