Chaotic Pendulum

An orange and yellow exhibit table with matching information panel at the back and on the top is a steel arch with a string and black weight hanging down from the apex of the arch.

Chaotic patterns are studied within mathematics and meteorology.

How it works

Push a magnetic pendulum and watch it swing chaotically over a metal plate.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Gently push the pendulum and watch it swing.
  • Gently push the pendulum again. Can you make it swing the same way?
  • Can we control and predict how the pendulum will swing?

Background

The pendulum’s strange, chaotic movement is caused by magnets. Four magnets on the table top repel the magnet in the pendulum to make it swing this way. A small change in the way you swing the pendulum can affect the swinging pattern and where the pendulum stops.

Finding the science in your world

The study of chaotic ‘movements’ in Nature helps us understand weather patterns and changes.