Portuguese scientists bust the pendulum clock conundrum

Portuguese scientists bust the pendulum clock conundrum

Everyone has seen a pendulum clock hanging either at there grandmothers house or at a antique shop, but did you know that if more than one pendulum clocks hang near each other their swing will synchronise?

350 Years ago a Dutch inventor and scientist Christiaan Huygens observed that two pendulum clocks hanging from a wall would synchronise their swing over time. But what causes this phenomenon?

This has baffled scientist ever since, having them scratch there heads for centuries, until now. A study in the journal Scientific Reports has proposed a solution: the pendulums transfer energy to one another through sound pulses.

A pair of Portuguese scientists developed a complex mathematical model before conducting experiments with a pair of clocks attached to a rail fixed to a wall. The theoretical predictions and simulation matched, they found.

“We could verify that the energy transfer is through a sound pulse,” said co-author Luis Melo, from Lisbon University’s physics department. This not only solves “an old, fundamental problem,” it also boosts understanding of other types of oscillator, he said.

Fun Fact:

  • Huygens is credited with making the first pendulum clock in 1656, the most accurate timepiece built until then, with an error margin of less than one minute a day.
  • In 1665, the scientist reported observing a strange phenomenon: two clocks hanging from the same structure would start swinging in unison, though in opposite directions.
  • The speed of a pendulum, a weight suspended from a string, rod or wire, is determined mainly by its length.

Check out: theguardian.com