Today in Space History: Happy Birthday Leon Foucault

Today in Space History: Happy Birthday Leon Foucault

Foucault_pendulum_animatedIf you do a Google Search for anything today, you’ll notice it’s the birthday of a French physicist called Leon Foucault. Leon was a guy who could really swing, because he created the Foucault Pendulum, which demonstrates how the rotation of the Earth effects us in almost imperceptible ways! Below is a video of his pendulum from the Houston Museum Of Natural History. Foucault’s real pendulum was actually damaged in 2000, but a copy was created for the Pantheon in Paris.


Rather than swining back and forth in a straight line, it made an eliptical pattern because of the pull of gravity and the Earth’s rotation. this is why the pendulum knocked down a different pin every time it made its sweep back and forth. If the pendulum continues to swing, it will knock down the entire circle of pins over a 24 hour period. This experiment helped people better understand the effect of Earth’s rotation on our lives, and formed the basis for modern clocks and watches.

Below is a nice children’s website designed to explain how this pendulum works; it’s operated by the Public Broadcasting Channel.

http://pbskids.org/zoom/games/pendulum/foucault.html

If you click on it, you’ll get to see a short bio of Foucault, an explanation of his pendulum, a virtual pendulum that you can conduct experiments with, and instructions on how to build a real pendulum.

So Happy Birthday Foucault, you old swinger!

Happy Stargazing.

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