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Tic, Toc: Pendulum Motion

Figure from experiment 22 from Real-World Math with Vernier


Pendulum motion has long fascinated people. Galileo studied pendulum motion by watching a swinging chandelier and timing it with his pulse. In 1851 Jean Foucault demonstrated that the earth rotates by using a long pendulum which swung in the same plane while the earth rotated beneath it.

As long as the swing is not too wide, the pendulum approximates simple harmonic motion and produces a sinusoidal pattern. In this activity, you will use a Motion Detector to plot the position versus time graph for a simple pendulum. You will time the motion to calculate the period, and use a ruler to measure the maximum displacement. You will then use the data to model the motion with the cosine function to mimic the position versus time graph:

y = A\cos \left( {B\left( {x - C} \right)} \right) + D


  • Record the horizontal position versus time for a swinging pendulum.
  • Determine the period of the pendulum motion.
  • Model the position data using a cosine function.

Sensors and Equipment

This activity features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Standards Correlations

See all standards correlations for Real-World Math with Vernier »

Activity 22 from Real-World Math with Vernier Lab Book

<i>Real-World Math with Vernier</i> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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