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A Foucault pendulum is a pendulum suspended from a long wire, that is sustained in motion over long periods. Due to the axial rotation of the earth, the plane of motion of the pendulum shifts at a rate and direction dependent on its latitude: clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. At the poles the plane rotates once per day, while at the equator it does not rotate at all.
Simple Harmonic Motion
Many objects vibrate or oscillate – an object on the end of a spring, a tuning fork, the balance wheel of a watch, a pendulum, the strings of a guitar or a piano. When we speak of a vibration or oscillation, we mean the motion of an object that repeats itself, back and forth, over the same path. This motion is also known as simple harmonic motion, often denoted as SHM.
A useful design for examining SHM is an object attached to the end of a spring and laid on a surface. The surface supports the object so its weight (the force of gravity) doesn’t get involved in the forces. The spring is considered to be weightless.
In the equation above, the constant of proportionality is called the spring constant. The spring constant is represented by k and its units are N/m. This equation is accurate as long as the spring is not compressed to the point that the coils touch nor stretched beyond elasticity.
Imagine an object moving in uniform circular motion. Remember the yo-yo we spin over our heads? In your mind, turn the circle so that you are looking at it on edge; imagine you are eight feet tall, and the yo-yo's circle is exactly at eye level. The object will move back forth in the same way that a mass moves in SHM. It moves consistently from the far left to the far right until you stop spinning the yo-yo. Another example is to imagine a glowing light bulb riding a merry-go-round at night. You are sitting in a chair at some distance from the merry-go-round so that the only part of the system that is visible to you is the light bulb. The movement of the light will appear to you to be back and forth in simple harmonic motion. Circular motion and simple harmonic motion have a lot in common.
Example Problem: When a 500. kg crate of cargo is placed in the bed of a pickup truck, the truck’s springs compress 4.00 cm. Assume the springs act as a single spring.
(a) What is the spring constant for the truck springs?
(b) How far with the springs compress if 800. kg of cargo is placed in the truck bed?
- Simple harmonic motion occurs in many situations, including an object of the end of a spring, a tuning fork, a pendulum, and strings on a guitar or piano.
- A mass oscillating on a horizontal spring is often used to analyze SHM.
- The restoring force for a mass oscillating on a horizontal spring is related to the displacement of the mass from its equilibrium position, F=−kx.
- SHM is related to uniform circular motion when the uniform circular motion is viewed in one dimension.
Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.
- What is the graph produced by a swinging pendulum's motion graphed over time?
- How does the Exploratorium demonstrate the relationship between simple harmonic motion and circular motion? Is it convincing?
- Why don't the pendulums all swing at the same rate?
The following website has a set of questions and answers about simple harmonic motion.
- In simple harmonic motion, when the speed of the object is maximum, the acceleration is zero.
- In SHM, maximum displacement of the mass means maximum acceleration.
- If a spring has a spring constant of 1.00 × 103 N/m, what is the restoring force when the mass has been displaced 20.0 cm?