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Pendulum

A pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely. When released, the restoring force acting on the pendulum's mass causes it to oscillate about the equilibrium position, swinging back and forth. The time for one complete cycle, a left swing and a right swing, is called the period. The period depends on the length of the pendulum and also to a slight degree on the amplitude , the width of the pendulum's swing. From the first scientific investigations of the pendulum around by Galileo Galilei , the regular motion of pendulums was used for timekeeping, and was the world's most accurate timekeeping technology until the s. Pendulums are also used in scientific instruments such as accelerometers and seismometers. Historically they were used as gravimeters to measure the acceleration of gravity in geo-physical surveys, and even as a standard of length. The word "pendulum" is new Latin , from the Latin pendulus , meaning 'hanging'. The simple gravity pendulum [4] is an idealized mathematical model of a pendulum. When given an initial push, it will swing back and forth at a constant amplitude.
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A simple pendulum is one which can be considered to be a point mass suspended from a string or rod of negligible mass. It is a resonant system with a single resonant frequency. For small amplitudes, the period of such a pendulum can be approximated by:. Note that the angular amplitude does not appear in the expression for the period. This expression for period is reasonably accurate for angles of a few degrees, but the treatment of the large amplitude pendulum is much more complex. If the rod is not of negligible mass, then it must be treated as a physical pendulum. Sean Carroll relates the story of Galileo's discovery of the fact that for small amplitudes, the period and frequency are unaffected by the amplitude. The chandelier overhead would swing gently back and forth, but it seemed to move more quickly when it was swinging widely after a gust of wind, for example and more slowly when it wasn't moving as far. Intrigued, Galileo decided to measure how much time it took for each swing, using the only approximately periodic event to which he had ready access: the beating of his own pulse. He found something interesting: The number of heartbeats between swings of the chandelier was roughly the same, regardless of whether the swings were wide or narrow.

Pendulum , body suspended from a fixed point so that it can swing back and forth under the influence of gravity. Pendulums are used to regulate the movement of clocks because the interval of time for each complete oscillation, called the period , is constant. The Italian scientist Galileo first noted c. The Dutch mathematician and scientist Christiaan Huygens invented a clock controlled by the motion of a pendulum in The priority of invention of the pendulum clock has been ascribed to Galileo by some authorities and to Huygens by others, but Huygens solved the essential problem of making the period of a pendulum truly constant by devising a pivot that caused the suspended body, or bob , to swing along the arc of a cycloid rather than that of a circle. A simple pendulum consists of a bob suspended at the end of a thread that is so light as to be considered massless. The period of such a device can be made longer by increasing its length, as measured from the point of suspension to the middle of the bob. A change in the mass of the bob, however, does not affect the period, provided the length is not thereby affected. The period, on the other hand , is influenced by the position of the pendulum in relation to Earth. There are various other kinds of pendulums.

Pendulum , body suspended from a fixed point so that it can swing back and forth under the influence of gravity. Pendulums are used to regulate the movement of clocks because the interval of time for each complete oscillation, called the period , is constant. The Italian scientist Galileo first noted c. The Dutch mathematician and scientist Christiaan Huygens invented a clock controlled by the motion of a pendulum in The priority of invention of the pendulum clock has been ascribed to Galileo by some authorities and to Huygens by others, but Huygens solved the essential problem of making the period of a pendulum truly constant by devising a pivot that caused the suspended body, or bob , to swing along the arc of a cycloid rather than that of a circle.

A simple pendulum consists of a bob suspended at the end of a thread that is so light as to be considered massless. The period of such a device can be made longer by increasing its length, as measured from the point of suspension to the middle of the bob.

A change in the mass of the bob, however, does not affect the period, provided the length is not thereby affected. The period, on the other hand , is influenced by the position of the pendulum in relation to Earth.

There are various other kinds of pendulums. A compound pendulum has an extended mass, like a swinging bar, and is free to oscillate about a horizontal axis. Another type is the Schuler pendulum. This principle of the Schuler pendulum is applied in some inertial guidance systems to maintain a correct internal vertical reference, even during rapid acceleration. A spherical pendulum is one that is suspended from a pivot mounting, which enables it to swing in any of an infinite number of vertical planes through the point of suspension.

A simple version of the spherical pendulum, the Foucault pendulum , is used to show that Earth rotates on its axis. See also ballistic pendulum. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Home Technology Engineering Mechanical Engineering. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree See Article History.

Britannica Quiz. Gadgets and Technology: Fact or Fiction? It takes very few resources to make a mobile phone. Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription. Subscribe today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. According to legend, Galileo discovered the principle of the pendulum while attending mass at the Duomo cathedral located in the Piazza del Duomo of Pisa, Italy. A lamp hung from the ceiling by a cable and, having just been lit, was swaying back and….

To test that the period is independent of amplitude two pendulums may be made as nearly identical as possible, so that they keep in step when swinging with the same amplitude. They are then swung with different amplitudes. It requires considerable care to detect….

In the English physicist Henry Kater, building on the work of the German astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel, was the first to use a reversible pendulum to make absolute measurements of g. If the periods of swing of a rigid pendulum about two alternative…. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! Email address. By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice.

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