February 16, 2010 Issue

Physics To Go 91 - Life in a rotating frame

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Physics in Your World

South Pole Foucault Pendulum image
image credit: Jon Bird; Image source; larger image

South Pole Foucault Pendulum

These three physicists set up a Foucault pendulum at the South Pole to look for the daily rotation of the plane of swing due to the Coriolis force. With the pendulum suspended so it could freely turn in all directions, Earth rotates beneath it once per day, so in the Earth's frame of reference the pendulum is observed to swing through 360° in 24 hours. For more on this kind of pendulum, see the University of New South Wales' Foucault pendulum

(This feature was updated on June 21, 2010)

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Physics at Home

Foucault Pendulum

Try this experiment from the science center COSI to see how a pendulum would look if you viewed it from the South Pole.

(This feature was updated on June 21, 2010)


From Physics Research

20G Centrifuge image
image credit: NASA; Image source; Larger image.

20G Centrifuge

This is the NASA 20-G centrifuge, a large-scale version of the centrifuges you may have seen in biology class used to separate suspended material. In the NASA centrifuge, the human subject rides in a small compartment on the end of the arm and experiences the "fictitious" centrifugal force pushing outward at up to 20 times the force of gravity. To learn more about the NASA centrifuge, see 20G Centrifuge. For more on the centrifugal force, check out this Hyperphysics page.

(This feature was updated on June 21, 2010)

Worth a Look

What is a "fictitious force"?

To learn more about fictitious forces, see What is a "fictitious force"? and, for more detail, this Physics Classroom tutorial , especially the animations.

(This feature was updated on June 21, 2010)

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