Water waves are a good example of phenomena that is commonly observed, but difficult to study because of the cost of setting up controlled experiments. In order to view particle motions associated with waves, one must have a large tank in order to avoid edge and surface tension effects. (Cramer, private conversation) Furthermore, once an experiment is set up, it is difficult to change the controlling parameters and compare the results for different runs. A novice would also have trouble understanding standing waves or superposition of multiple wave trains from most laboratory experiments. Waves involving multiple layers of fluids are important in both oceanographic applications, and industrial problems. (Dean) However, the dynamics of these waves involve a complicated coupling of the motion of the interfaces separating the layers, making them difficult to study in an experiment, as well.
The mathematical analysis of water waves is complex, and usually beyond the training of most undergraduates and entry-level engineers. Also, many of the concepts are too abstract for the average ocean or mechanical engineer. (Cramer, private conversation) The purpose of this series of laboratories is to develop a tool, which helps to illustrate the motions involved in the propagation of progressive waves, standing waves, and waves on multiple fluid layers. In each of these labs, the user will be able to adjust parameters such as, wavelength and water depth, and observe the effect of these changes on the wave behavior. In two of these laboratories, the user is able to mark fluid particles at a point in the flow, and follow the motion as the waves pass. This applet has three tabs, each one corresponding to a separate problem.