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This animated Shockwave activity explores pendulum motion by displaying the patterns traced by the tip of an ideal pendulum. Swing it back and forth from different heights and change the length of the string. But now it gets more complicated: the user can jump to another planet to see how changing gravity affects the motion of the pendulum. Students will also explore why the pendulum traces out a flower-shaped pattern rather than a straight line. (This occurs because of Earth's rotation -- making it seem as though the pendulum is turning when, actually, the earth is turning.) The simulation can change the rate of planetary rotation to show what the pattern would look like on a fast or slow-spinning planet. The game ends by putting all four variables together.

Please note that this resource requires Shockwave.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
- Fundamentals
= Gravity
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Inquiry Learning
Oscillations & Waves
- Oscillations
= Pendula
- Middle School
- High School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Game
= Interactive Simulation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 2004 WGBH Educational Foundation, http://pbskids.org/zoom/help/copyright/index.html
Hooke's Law, PBS simulation, gravitational acceleration, middle school simulation, pendulum animation, pendulum simulation, periodic motion
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created October 12, 2010 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
September 23, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
September 30, 2010

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4B. The Earth
  • 6-8: 4B/M3. Everything on or anywhere near the earth is pulled toward the earth's center by gravitational force.
4G. Forces of Nature
  • 3-5: 4G/E1. The earth's gravity pulls any object on or near the earth toward it without touching it.
  • 6-8: 4G/M1. Every object exerts gravitational force on every other object. The force depends on how much mass the objects have and on how far apart they are. The force is hard to detect unless at least one of the objects has a lot of mass.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Periodic and Simple Harmonic Motion
Unit Title: Simple Harmonic Motion

The amount of time it takes a pendulum to swing back and forth stays the same when you change its weight. But what if you took the pendulum to another planet? This animation lets students interactively explore pendulum length, the force of gravity, and rotation of the planet to see how they affect the motion of the pendulum.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2004), WWW Document, (http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.zpendulumint/virtual-pendulum/).
PBS Learning Media: Virtual Pendulum, (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2004), <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.zpendulumint/virtual-pendulum/>.
APA Format
PBS Learning Media: Virtual Pendulum. (2010, September 30). Retrieved October 23, 2014, from WGBH Educational Foundation: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.zpendulumint/virtual-pendulum/
Chicago Format
WGBH Educational Foundation. PBS Learning Media: Virtual Pendulum. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, September 30, 2010. http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.zpendulumint/virtual-pendulum/ (accessed 23 October 2014).
MLA Format
PBS Learning Media: Virtual Pendulum. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2004. 30 Sep. 2010. 23 Oct. 2014 <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.zpendulumint/virtual-pendulum/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PBS Learning Media: Virtual Pendulum}, Publisher = {WGBH Educational Foundation}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {23 October 2014}, Month = {September 30, 2010}, Year = {2004} }
Refer Export Format

%T PBS Learning Media: Virtual Pendulum
%D September 30, 2010
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%C Boston
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.zpendulumint/virtual-pendulum/
%O application/shockwave

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D September 30, 2010
%T PBS Learning Media: Virtual Pendulum
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%V 2014
%N 23 October 2014
%8 September 30, 2010
%9 application/shockwave
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.zpendulumint/virtual-pendulum/

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

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