Foucault's pendulum

COSI Science Center. The pendulum at COSI is a visitor favorite. It demonstrates that the Earth rotates at 790 mph! Science shows that as the Earth moves, it carries COSI with it, and COSI carries the pendulum, giving the illusion that the pendulum is moving in a circle.

Last year when scientists mounted a pendulum above the South Pole and watched it swing, they were replicating a celebrated demonstration performed in Paris in 1851. Using a steel wire 220 feet long, the French scientist Jean-Bernard-Léon Foucault suspended a 62-pound iron ball from the dome of the Panthéon and set it in motion, rocking back and forth. To mark its progress he attached a stylus to the ball and placed a ring of damp sand on the floor below.
The audience watched in awe as the pendulum inexplicably appeared to rotate, leaving a slightly different trace with each swing. Actually it was the floor of the Panthéon that was slowly moving, and Foucault had shown, more convincingly than ever, that the earth revolves on its axis. At the latitude of Paris, the pendulum's path would complete a full clockwise rotation every 30 hours; on the Southern Hemisphere it would rotate counterclockwise, and on the Equator it wouldn't revolve at all. At the South Pole, as the modern-day scientists confirmed, the period of rotation is 24 hours.
The swing of Foucault's pendulum depends on the way we set it into the motion. If we set the pendulum in motion by a short push at the position of equilibrium it will swing as it is shown in animation. Actually the speed of the pendulum in the extreme positions is the speed of the earth rotation in the point of observation.

De slinger van Foucault in het Panthéon te Paris

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