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Section 10.9 The Gibbs Phenomenon

Generally, it is possible to approximate a reasonably smooth function quite well, by keeping enough terms in the Fourier series. However, in the case of a function that has (a finite number of) discontinuities, the Fourier approximation of the function will always “overshoot” the discontinuity. This overshoot phenomenon gets sharper and sharper, i.e. bigger amplitude over a smaller domain, as the number of terms in the approximation is increased.

An example of the Gibbs phenomenon is shown in Figure 10.9.1.

Figure 10.9.1. The Gibbs phenomenon for the Fourier series of a step function. Move the slider to increase the number of terms in the approximation.