The development of bar pendulum experiments can be traced back to sixteenth century Italy. Grandfather and grandmother clocks benefit from some of the lessons learned in bar pendulum experiments. Further developments in the understanding of how pendulums swing are being made hundreds of years after the first experiments.
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According to the UK India Education and Research Initiative, a bar pendulum is a roughly one metre long metal bar. It is rectangular and uniform. There are holes along its length at intervals of 5 cm. The centre of gravity of the bar is in the middle. According to R K Agrawal et al., the bar rests on a horizontal knife-edge pivot. This can be inserted into any of the holes. You can then oscillate the bar vertically to study pendulum swing.
Kendall F. Haven recalls the story of Galileo first noticing something strange about lamps hanging on chains. In 1594, while sitting in Pisa cathedral, the young professor Galileo noticed the lamps, which all seemed to swing at the same speed. He decided to time them using the pulse in his neck. He timed the lamps over many days and confirmed that no matter what size they were, they took the same time to complete an arc of motion.
Dutch scientist Christian Huygens saw a practical application for Galileo's discovery. In 1656, Huygens used the principle to make an accurate clock. He built a clock with a weighted metal rod as the pendulum. This was the world’s first pendulum clock, according to The Science Museum. Previously, clocks were not reliable and constantly lost time. Huygens did his own bar pendulum experiments and realised the ability to change the position of the weight on the pendulum was the key to keeping time more accurately.
Bar pendulum experiments are still being done in seats of learning throughout the world. Some scientists doubt the accuracy of Galileo’s findings. This is not a regrettable state of affairs. It is exactly how science should work. Science constantly evolves to create greater understanding. As methods of observation and measurement become increasingly sophisticated, perhaps someone will discover something else about bar pendulums. That could be the start of a whole new branch of science.
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