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I have a problem with an assignment with two masses on a frictionless plane connected with a spring.

Both masses are 1 kg, and the distance between them (the length of the spring) is 0.4 m. The spring constant k = 8 N/m. The first mass is given a initial velocity of 1 m/s.

The assignment is based on Walter Lewins lecture here at 48 minutes: http://videolectures.net/mit801f99_lewin_lec15/

I'm asked to write a python program displaying the positions of both masses, but I'm struggling with the formulas.

This is what i have so far:

Acceleration for each object (m = 1 kg): $$m1:\mathrm{d}^2x/\mathrm{d}t^2 = -k(x1-x2+L)t$$ $$m2:\mathrm{d}^2x/\mathrm{d}t^2 = -k(x2-x1-L)t$$

Equation: $$ω=\mathrm{sqrt}(k/m)=\mathrm{sqrt(8)}$$ $$x = A\cos(ωt)+B\sin(ωt)$$ for m1: t=0, pos=0 and v=1: $$x1=(1/ω)\cos(ωt)/2$$ i divide by 2 to get the oscillation of just m1 (wrong?)

for m2: t=0, pos=0.4, v=0: $$0.4\cos(ωt)$$

again,i divide by 2 to get the oscillation of just m2

Problem:

How do i make m2 dependent of m1's position? And how do i make them "move" along as they should? I have tried to create a function for center of mass, CM(t)=0.2*0.5t, to use as a reference of movement, but i cant get it right.

Can someone give me a pointer in the right direction?

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Once the mass is released, the center of mass will move at a constant velocity. Superposed on that is the relative motion of the two masses - first towards each other, then away. They will be in exact antiphase so the center of mass has constant velocity.

Your mistake was to set x up as a cosine function - that implies that it is at an extreme of position at t=0 when in fact it is at an extreme of velocity (so position is "in the middle" and you need to use a sin function). That leads me to the following (you will need to check this and prove individual steps along the way which I did not give... it's not solving the differential equations but jumping to the answer - but I think that you should be able to work towards this answer with the above hint).

import numpy as np
import math
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

k = 8
l = 0.4
m1 = 1.0
m2 = 1.0
m_reduced = (m1*m2)/(m1+m2) 
omega = np.sqrt(k / m_reduced)
t = np.linspace(0, 8.0 * math.pi / omega, 500)
a1 = 1.0 / (2*omega) # because we know dx/dt at t=0 - but half is due to c.o.m.
a2 = - a1
v_com = 0.5 # since one mass moves at 1 m/s and the other is initially stationary
x1 = a1 * np.sin(omega * t) + v_com * t
x2 = a2 * np.sin(omega * t) + v_com * t + l
plt.figure()
plt.plot(t, x1, label='x1')
plt.plot(t, x2, label='x2')
plt.xlabel('time (s)')
plt.ylabel('position (m)')
plt.legend()
plt.show()

enter image description here

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