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An Investigation to discover whether the string length of a pendulum affects the pendulum in any way.

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Andrew Lyons4th December 01

An Investigation to discover whether the string length of a pendulum affects the pendulum in any way.


A pendulum is a device made up of an object suspended from a fixed point that swings back and forth under the influence of gravity.  Pendulums are used in several kinds of mechanical devices; for example, certain types of clocks use pendulums.

The most basic type of pendulum is the simple pendulum.  In a simple pendulum, which swings back and forth in a single direction, all the mass of the device can be entirely in the suspended object.  The motion of pendulums, such as those in clocks, closely approximates the motion of a simple pendulum.  A spherical pendulum is not confined to a single direction, and as a result its motion can be much more complicated than the motion of a simple pendulum.

The principle of the pendulum was discovered by Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo, who established that the period for the back-and-forth swing of a pendulum, of a given length, remains the same, no matter how large its arc, or amplitude.  (If the amplitude is too large, however, the period of the pendulum is dependent on the amplitude.)

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10)        At each length I will repeat the steps 4 – 7.

11)        I will work out the averages and record them, I will also work out what the correct answer would have been using this formula:  T=2π√(L /G)

12)        I will put the equipment away.

The Formula

The formula   T=2π √(L /G)   is used to find out what the time to complete the swing should have been if the experiment was flawless.  T is the time it takes to complete the swing, L is the length of the string at the time, and G is gravity, which is 9.87m/s².

To make this investigation safe, I will put some weight on the base of the clamp stand.  I will do this in case the table is knocked and the stand falls over.  The weight should hopefully stop this happening.  I will also make sure no one is standing near by, so that the pendulum does not hit him or her when it is swinging.

Results Table

The degrees change ½ way through the experiment because of a mistake on my part.  When drawing the 20-degree angle on a sheet, I accidentally drew it at 30 degrees.

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To improve my experiment, I could have used a different timing method.  Timing by hand is all right, however it is not completely accurate.  To improve it I could use a clock, which begins timing at the moment that the pendulum is released.  This way, my results will be more accurate.  I could also use a type of string, which has less friction on the pivot.  The friction on the pivot may be slowing the pendulum down faster, and may account for some inaccurate results.  Another way would be to do the experiment in a vacuum.  This would be difficult to do, however there would not be any air resistance on the pendulum, and it would, once again, stop it from slowing down as fast and I would get more accurate results.

As an extension for this investigation, I could see what effect different types of string will have on the pendulum swing.  I believe that it will make a difference as some strings, such as fishing wire, have less air resistance and will create less friction in the pivot than the string that I used for this investigation.

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