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published by the University of New South Wales
written by Joe Wolfe
This interactive tutorial provides a simple explanation of the Foucault Pendulum, a device constructed in 1851 by French physicist Jean Foucault to demonstrate the rotation of the earth. This resource features videos of a Foucault pendulum in Australia (one of the few that exist in the Southern hemisphere). Accompanying animations help the user visualize the line of swing from different frames of reference.

Editor's Note: To observers on Earth's surface, the Foucault pendulum seems to change its path during the day. Actually it is the floor beneath it that changes due to daily rotation of the Earth.  

This resource is part of the PhysClips library of multimedia tutorials. See Related Materials for a link to the full section on Newton's Laws and for an additional animated tutorial appropriate for Grades 8-9 physical science.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Newton's First Law
= Inertia in Motion
- Newton's Second Law
- Relative Motion
= Rotating Reference Frames
Education Practices
- Technology
= Multimedia
Oscillations & Waves
- Oscillations
= Pendula
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
= Tutorial
- Reference Material
- Audio/Visual
= Image/Image Set
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 2006 School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Australia
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Australia License.
Foucault pendulum, Newton, film clips, force interaction, forces, frame of reference, inertia, inertial frame, multimedia, rotational frame, tutorial, video clips
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created October 2, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
October 2, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
August 31, 2010

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 9-12: 4F/H2. All motion is relative to whatever frame of reference is chosen, for there is no motionless frame from which to judge all motion.
  • 9-12: 4F/H8. Any object maintains a constant speed and direction of motion unless an unbalanced outside force acts on it.
4G. Forces of Nature
  • 6-8: 4G/M2. The sun's gravitational pull holds the earth and other planets in their orbits, just as the planets' gravitational pull keeps their moons in orbit around them.

10. Historical Perspectives

10B. Uniting the Heavens and Earth
  • 9-12: 10B/H1. Isaac Newton, building on earlier descriptions of motion by Galileo, Kepler, and others, created a unified view of force and motion in which motion everywhere in the universe can be explained by the same few rules. Newton's system was based on the concepts of mass, force, and acceleration; his three laws of motion relating them; and a physical law stating that the force of gravity between any two objects in the universe depends only upon their masses and the distance between them.
  • 9-12: 10B/H3. The Newtonian system made it possible to account for such diverse phenomena as tides, the orbits of planets and moons, the motion of falling objects, and the earth's equatorial bulge.
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Record Link
AIP Format
J. Wolfe, (University of New South Wales, Sydney, 2006), WWW Document, (https://www.animations.physics.unsw.edu.au/jw/foucault_pendulum.html).
J. Wolfe, PhysClips: The Foucault Pendulum (University of New South Wales, Sydney, 2006), <https://www.animations.physics.unsw.edu.au/jw/foucault_pendulum.html>.
APA Format
Wolfe, J. (2010, August 31). PhysClips: The Foucault Pendulum. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from University of New South Wales: https://www.animations.physics.unsw.edu.au/jw/foucault_pendulum.html
Chicago Format
Wolfe, Joe. PhysClips: The Foucault Pendulum. Sydney: University of New South Wales, August 31, 2010. https://www.animations.physics.unsw.edu.au/jw/foucault_pendulum.html (accessed 19 June 2024).
MLA Format
Wolfe, Joe. PhysClips: The Foucault Pendulum. Sydney: University of New South Wales, 2006. 31 Aug. 2010. 19 June 2024 <https://www.animations.physics.unsw.edu.au/jw/foucault_pendulum.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Joe Wolfe", Title = {PhysClips: The Foucault Pendulum}, Publisher = {University of New South Wales}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {19 June 2024}, Month = {August 31, 2010}, Year = {2006} }
Refer Export Format

%A Joe Wolfe %T PhysClips: The Foucault Pendulum %D August 31, 2010 %I University of New South Wales %C Sydney %U https://www.animations.physics.unsw.edu.au/jw/foucault_pendulum.html %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %A Wolfe, Joe %D August 31, 2010 %T PhysClips: The Foucault Pendulum %I University of New South Wales %V 2024 %N 19 June 2024 %8 August 31, 2010 %9 text/html %U https://www.animations.physics.unsw.edu.au/jw/foucault_pendulum.html

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PhysClips: The Foucault Pendulum:

Is Part Of PhysClips: Newton's Laws

This is the full set of PhysClip tutorials relating to Newton's Laws and force interactions.

relation by Caroline Hall
Covers the Same Topic As About Foucault Pendulums

This interactive tutorial explains how a Foucault Pendulum is used to demonstrate the Earth's rotation. It is appropriate for middle school physical science and Physics First courses.

relation by Caroline Hall

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