Oscillation vs. Vibration

Difference Between Oscillation and Vibration

Both the terms oscillation and vibration are quite important in the department of physics of sound and movement. Both are noticed in our daily life and while sometimes they are positive and at times they are damaging. A body can oscillate in a to and fro manner however a body can vibrate in all directions. While vibration is all about a physical change movement that takes place because of the body movement, oscillation is a specific distance that is covered by the movement while it is in its equilibrium position. An example of oscillation is the swinging of a pendulum clock and that of vibration is the plucking of guitar string.

Oscillation is the body movement from its position of rest to the maximum distance can be covered on one side and on the other side as well and back to the position of rest. The maximum distance that is covered by the body on either side from its point of rest has an equal distance and is defined as the amplitude or maximum displacement. The resting point of the body is also called its state of equilibrium. There is a definite time period associated with oscillation i.e. if there is no outer force working on the body the time taken by the body to complete one oscillation will be the same in all the cases. This movement is called the periodic movement and the completion time of one oscillation is its frequency.

Vibration is the body movement from its present position and can be of any type, linear, circular, periodic or non periodic. When there is any external force that is applied to a body its atoms get displaced from their mean position.  They tend to return to their mean position due to the atomic binding force. Because of the momentum the atoms have gained during the motion they can travel past their mean position to the opposite side. This process goes on till the friction exhausts all their kinetic energy. This atomic movement causes body vibration and it stops when the movements of atoms stop at mean position. All the musical instruments that are played by plucking strings use vibration. The loudspeakers also work as a result of the vibration of the diaphragm and vibration of our ear drums lead us to hear everything. Any vibration that generates noise is quite harmful for us.



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  • Samuel

    I feel that vibrations occur due to the elastic forces set up within a solid when some deforming force ceases to act. Further, vibrations have comparatively small amplitudes and high frequencies. One more point that can be added is that vibrations are intrinsically damped and dies down by itself within a short span of time.
    Oscillations are not due to elastic forces, but due to external forces acting on a system to change its configuration in space about a mean/equilibrium configuration. Amplitudes are comparatively large, and frequencies can vary over wide ranges. Finally unless there is an external damping force, oscillations continue forever theoretically.