Oscillation is the repetitive or periodic variation, typically in time, of some measure about a central value (often a point of equilibrium) or between two or more different states. Familiar examples of oscillation include a swinging pendulum and alternating current. Oscillations can be used in physics to approximate complex interactions, such as those between atoms.

An undamped spring–mass system is an oscillatory system

Oscillations occur not only in mechanical systems but also in dynamic systems in virtually every area of science: for example the beating of the human heart (for circulation), business cycles in economics, predator–prey population cycles in ecology, geothermal geysers in geology, vibration of strings in guitar and other string instruments, periodic firing of nerve cells in the brain, and the periodic swelling of Cepheid variable stars in astronomy. The term vibration is precisely used to describe a mechanical oscillation.

Oscillation, especially rapid oscillation, may be an undesirable phenomenon in process control and control theory (e.g. in sliding mode control), where the aim is convergence to stable state. In these cases it is called chattering or flapping, as in valve chatter, and route flapping.

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