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SWING LOW, SWEET PENDULUM

Prove the rotation of the earth with Foucault’s pendulum

Suitable For

Grade 8

Difficulty

2

Time Required

 <12 Hours

Supervision

Advised

What’s it about?

We know that the earth moves around its own axis once every 24 hours, providing us with day and night. Other than the position of the sun in relation to the earth, there is not much evidence that the sun rotates. Jean Foucault, a French physicist, demonstrated this fact in another way in 1851 in front of an astonished audience. In this science experiment you will build a simple version of his device, a Foucault’s pendulum, to prove the rotation of the earth:

Topics covered

Jean Foucault, Pendulum

What will I need?

  • FINE WHITE SAND
  • 2L PLASTIC BOTTLE
  • STRING
  • NAIL
  • STICKY TAPE
  • LARGE BLACK SHEET
  • FUNNEL

Procedure (Method)

Unfortunately, this section is only available in the e-book version of the project.

How does it work?

Unfortunately, this section is only available in the e-book version of the project.

In this science experiment, the earth’s rotation exerts a new force on the ‘pendulum’s natural tendency to swing back and forth without changing its path. A pendulum’s back and forth motion is firstly because of the sideways direction of the first swing, and secondly because the force of gravity is pulling it downward. Foucault’s pendulum shifted off its natural path proving that a third force, the earth’s rotation, acted upon it!

The rate at which the pendulum shifts is directly related to your location on earth. At the north pole, it would trace a complete circle in 24 hours whereas at the equator it would not shift at all!

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