Pendulum Conundrum

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Pendulum Conundrum
Ages school-age

One day, a mouse spotted an elephant swinging very fast on a swing and approached him with a challenge. "I bet you," he said, "that I can swing just as many times as you can in one minute."

Knowing that he could swing much faster than the little mouse, the elephant concluded that the mouse must be off his rocker and accepted his challenge. Can you guess who won the bet?

If you said the mouse, you're right! Two pendulums (in this case, swings) of the same length will complete an equal number of swings in the same amount of time regardless of their speed. A fast-moving swing will simply move quickly over a longer distance, while a slower swing will cover a shorter distance.

What you'll need

  • Small object (such as metal washer or a stuffed animal)
  • String
  • Ceiling hook

How to play

  1. Try It Yourself:  Tie an object (such as a metal washer or a small stuffed animal) to the end of a length of string hung from a ceiling hook.

  2. Try swinging the object both fast (as the elephant would swing) and slow (like the mouse) and counting the number of swings it makes in 1 minute (or 15 seconds, if you're in a hurry). Tip: For accuracy, count only at the top of each forward swing.

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