Skip to main content

Pendulum Snake

Pendulum Snake
These balls dance in changing patterns as they swing to their own rhythms.

Lift the handle to start this row of pendulums swinging, and then watch as they move in and out of a repeating series of mesmerizing patterns.

What’s going on?

Each of these swinging balls is a pendulum that swings back and forth at a slightly different rate, determined by the length of string supporting it.

The longest pendulum swings back and forth exactly 15 times in 30 seconds. Its neighbor swings 16 times in 30 seconds, the next 17, and so on down to the shortest one, which swings exactly 24 times in 30 seconds. Since every pendulum completes a whole number of swings in 30 seconds, they all come back together every 30 seconds.  

After 15 seconds, the even-numbered pendulums have completed a whole number of swings and are back where they started. The odd-numbered pendulums are exactly halfway through one of their swings and are opposite where they started. The result is two opposing lines of pendulums that seem to dance with each other.


IMLS acknowledgment

This web project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MA-30-16-0175-16].


IMLS acknowledgment

This web project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MA-30-16-0175-16].