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Physics LibreTexts

15.0: Prelude to Oscillations

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Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): (a) The Comcast Building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, looming high above the skyline, is approximately 305 meters (1000 feet) tall. At this height, the top floors can oscillate back and forth due to seismic activity and fluctuating winds. (b) Shown above is a schematic drawing of a tuned, liquid-column mass damper, installed at the top of the Comcast, consisting of a 300,000-gallon reservoir of water to reduce oscillations.

We begin the study of oscillations with simple systems of pendulums and springs. Although these systems may seem quite basic, the concepts involved have many real-life applications. For example, the Comcast Building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, stands approximately 305 meters (1000 feet) tall. As buildings are built taller, they can act as inverted, physical pendulums, with the top floors oscillating due to seismic activity and fluctuating winds. In the Comcast Building, a tuned-mass damper is used to reduce the oscillations. Installed at the top of the building is a tuned, liquid-column mass damper, consisting of a 300,000-gallon reservoir of water. This U-shaped tank allows the water to oscillate freely at a frequency that matches the natural frequency of the building. Damping is provided by tuning the turbulence levels in the moving water using baffles.

Contributors

  • Samuel J. Ling (Truman State University), Jeff Sanny (Loyola Marymount University), and Bill Moebs with many contributing authors. This work is licensed by OpenStax University Physics under a Creative Commons Attribution License (by 4.0).