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published by the Science NetLinks and the American Association for the Advancement of Science
This interactive lesson for Grades 9-12 demonstrates how the motion of the Foucault pendulum proves that the earth is rotating. It blends an animated tutorial with informative text to expand student understanding of motion and gravitational force. It was also designed to address the common misconceptions that the earth's gravity does not extend beyond its atmosphere or that it is caused by the atmosphere. The package includes student activity sheet with answer key for teachers.

See Related Materials for a short video from Teachers' Domain that further explores Leon Foucault's famous pendulum experiment and an online tutorial from PhysClips that provides more advanced information about the physics involved.

Science NetLinks is a part of Thinkfinity, a partnership that provides free Internet-based content across academic disciplines. Science resources are aligned to AAAS Benchmarks for Science Literacy.
Editor's Note: Most of the time, the relative motion of the earth does not affect our perception of motion. Since everything is moving, there is no fixed reference point against which the motion of things can be described. This lesson will help students understand that everything in the universe exerts gravitational forces on everything else, although the effects are readily noticeable only when at least one very large mass is involved.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Relative Motion
= Rotating Reference Frames
General Physics
- Curriculum
Oscillations & Waves
- Oscillations
= Pendula
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Student Guide
- Assessment Material
= Test
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Assessment
- New teachers
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© 2001 AAAS
Assessment, Foucault Pendulum , force, force and motion, frame of reference, motion, pendulum motion, reference frame, universal gravitation
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created October 29, 2006 by Cathy Ezrailson
Record Updated:
October 25, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
October 20, 2001

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4B. The Earth
  • 3-5: 4B/E2bc. The rotation of the earth on its axis every 24 hours produces the night-and-day cycle. To people on earth, this turning of the planet makes it seem as though the sun, moon, planets, and stars are orbiting the earth once a day.
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/H4. Whenever one thing exerts a force on another, an equal amount of force is exerted back on it.
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Record Link
AIP Format
(Science NetLinks, Washington, 2001), WWW Document, (http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/foucaults-pendulum/).
Science NetLinks: Foucault's Pendulum (Science NetLinks, Washington, 2001), <http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/foucaults-pendulum/>.
APA Format
Science NetLinks: Foucault's Pendulum. (2001, October 20). Retrieved December 1, 2023, from Science NetLinks: http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/foucaults-pendulum/
Chicago Format
Science NetLinks. Science NetLinks: Foucault's Pendulum. Washington: Science NetLinks, October 20, 2001. http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/foucaults-pendulum/ (accessed 1 December 2023).
MLA Format
Science NetLinks: Foucault's Pendulum. Washington: Science NetLinks, 2001. 20 Oct. 2001. 1 Dec. 2023 <http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/foucaults-pendulum/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Science NetLinks: Foucault's Pendulum}, Publisher = {Science NetLinks}, Volume = {2023}, Number = {1 December 2023}, Month = {October 20, 2001}, Year = {2001} }
Refer Export Format

%T Science NetLinks: Foucault's Pendulum %D October 20, 2001 %I Science NetLinks %C Washington %U http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/foucaults-pendulum/ %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D October 20, 2001 %T Science NetLinks: Foucault's Pendulum %I Science NetLinks %V 2023 %N 1 December 2023 %8 October 20, 2001 %9 text/html %U http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/foucaults-pendulum/

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Science NetLinks: Foucault's Pendulum:

Same topic as PBS Learning Media: Thank Goodness for Gravity

A four-minute video that explains how the motion of a pendulum demonstrates that the Earth is rotating on its axis.

relation by Caroline Hall
Same topic as The Foucault Pendulum

A digital tutorial that provides more extensive information about the physics involved in the motion of Foucault's Pendulum.

relation by Caroline Hall

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