The Spring Model Continued – Baiting


In the past two weeks, I worked on Second Order Differential Equations with constant coefficients and learned more about the Spring-Damper Model. In this blog, I will provide a brief recap of the basic knowledge, and then provide further analysis of the same model. If you are interested in my last blog, please visit here.

Recap of Critical Definition from my Last Blog:

1. The standard form of homogeneous second order differential equations is:

WeChat Screenshot_20181019091555

  • In which y is a function of tt is the independent variable, and A, B are arbitrary constants. While analyzing the spring-damper model, the independent variable t represents time.

2. The characteristic equation is:

WeChat Screenshot_20181019092258

  • To solve a homogeneous second order differential equation with constant coefficient, set


  • Solve for r, then use WeChat Screenshot_20181019091131.png to find y.

3. The spring-damper model is in the form of

WeChat Screenshot_20181021171514.png

  • m is the mass of the block, b is the damping constant, and k is the spring constant.
  • If you wonder how we get this equation, please check the link above and read my last blog.



After reviewing the basic knowledge, we are now ready to analyze the damping of the spring-damper model! In this case, we will first transform

WeChat Screenshot_20181021171514.png



Remember that mass never equal to 0, so these two equations are equivalent.

And then the characteristic equation becomes

WeChat Screenshot_20181103131532.png

We first need to analyze how the roots (r) behave in the characteristics equation. We can use the same analysis for quadratic equation:

WeChat Screenshot_20181103132049.png

In this blog, we will look at “underdamping” in detail. If you are interested in other two types of damping, please first try to analyze them yourself then visit here.

First, I want to look at the implications of b^2<4mk in general. This may mean three things:

  1. The damping constant b is small, which means the damper is weak.
  2. The spring constant k is large, which means the spring is strong.
  3. The mass is large, which means the block is heavy.

Imagine either one of the three cases, then you will find that as long as the mass(m) is not too big to break the spring, the block will oscillate and goes back to its equilibrium position. Let’s now try to prove this assumption mathematically!

First, since we haveWeChat Screenshot_20181103132049.png, we can set

WeChat Screenshot_20181103141617

So that

WeChat Screenshot_20181103142027.png

Plug it back into x and take the real part, we have

WeChat Screenshot_20181103145701.png

Notice that since the value in cos and sin are the same, we can use the sinusoidal identities and transform the equation into

WeChat Screenshot_20181103145723.png

In which

WeChat Screenshot_20181104193319

Following this equation, we would find:

  1. When t (time) approaches infinite, (position) approaches 0. Which means it goes back to its equilibrium position. This agrees with our assumption.
  2. The position of the block versus time should somehow follow the cosine function, which means it has a period and oscillates up and down. This agrees with our assumption.

If assign arbitrary values to b, m, and and plot the function, we would find something look like:

WeChat Screenshot_20181103151009.png

Graph from MIT Open Course Ware

And this is how underdamping looks like!! And conventionally, you can imagine the damper as gravity, and thus the motion would look like this:

Image result for spring damper gif

In this blog, we looked at how a block oscillate with a spring and a damper when the damper is weak. We also analyzed and found the math agrees with our common sense in real life. In fact, many of our observations have an origin in physics or mathematics. As long as we use deliberately use math as a tool, we will be able to explain them!

Starting now, I will be still working on the online course and building my knowledge. But I will also start to refer more to other models not covered in the course material. Hope you will find them interesting and meaningful!


Mattuck, A., Miller, H., Orloff, J., & Lewis, J. (2011, Fall). 18.03SC Differential Equations. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from MIT Open Course Ware website:

Zhu, B. (2018, October 21). Spring Model – Baiting [Blog post]. Retrieved from Independent Seminar Blog:


ΠΕΛΛΗΣ, Σ. (2012, October 20). ΦΘΙΝΟΥΣΕΣ ΤΑΛΑΝΤΩΣΕΙΣ [Illustration]. Retrieved from

Pasami. (2018, January 12). File:Spring-mass under-damped.gif [Illustration]. Retrieved from

4 thoughts on “The Spring Model Continued – Baiting

  1. sabrina.schoenborn

    Hey, Baiting! I really love what you are doing with your independent! You passion for math is so prominent and deep and seeing that, from an outsider perspective, is beautiful. like T. Susan commented, I really enjoyed your visuals and how you explained to the reader what we would find with certain equations. For the future, I’d love to hear more about your own personal history with math and how it got you to this independent. Keep up the great work!

  2. Dylan Lippiatt-Cook

    Loving the GIFs, they really help me understand what is happening even when I struggle with the words. I would have loved to see some real springs set up and videoed so we can compare that to the GIFs. Keep it up!

  3. Pingback: Playing With Fire | In A Class Of Our Own

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.