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Abstract

In this paper we present an Excel package that can be used to demonstrate physical phenomena in which variables may be automatically adjusted in real-time. This is accomplished by interrogating the system clock through the use of an appropriate macro, and using the clock reading to update the relevant variable. The package has been used for a number of years in first year physics courses to illustrate two phenomena: i) waves, including travelling waves, standing waves, the addition of waves and the interference of waves in general, and also Lissajous figures, and ii) Fraunhofer diffraction and the effects of varying such quantities as the wavelength of the incoming light, the number of slits, the slit width and the slit separation. A number of illustrative examples, generated by the package and taken from a fist year physics course, are presented graphically. The package, which is available for downloading from the web, may be used interactively by the student and is easily modified by them. The use of Excel has the advantage that it is accessible to a much wider audience than if it were written in, say, Matlab. We envisage that it may be useful for first year university courses in wave motion and optics, and may also be useful in physics courses in the last year of secondary school. The package has been tested under Excel 2003, 2007 and 2010, and runs satisfactorily in all three versions.

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