<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Measuring acceleration due to gravity: the period of a pendulum

What is the acceleration due to gravity in a region where a simple pendulum having a length 75.000 cm has a period of 1.7357 s?


We are asked to find g size 12{g} {} given the period T size 12{T} {} and the length L size 12{L} {} of a pendulum. We can solve T = L g size 12{T=2π sqrt { { {L} over {g} } } } {} for g size 12{g} {} , assuming only that the angle of deflection is less than 15º size 12{"15º"} {} .


  1. Square T = L g size 12{T=2π sqrt { { {L} over {g} } } } {} and solve for g size 12{g} {} :
    g = 2 L T 2 . size 12{g=4π rSup { size 8{2} } { {L} over {T rSup { size 8{2} } } } } {}
  2. Substitute known values into the new equation:
    g = 2 0 . 75000 m 1 . 7357 s 2 . size 12{g=4π rSup { size 8{2} } { {0 "." "75000"" m"} over { left (1 "." "7357 s" right ) rSup { size 8{2} } } } } {}
  3. Calculate to find g size 12{g} {} :
    g = 9 . 8281 m / s 2 . size 12{g=9 "." "828"m/s rSup { size 8{2} } } {}


This method for determining g g can be very accurate. This is why length and period are given to five digits in this example. For the precision of the approximation sin θ θ size 12{"sin"θ approx θ} {} to be better than the precision of the pendulum length and period, the maximum displacement angle should be kept below about 0.5º size 12{0 "." 5°} {} .

Making career connections

Knowing g g can be important in geological exploration; for example, a map of g size 12{g} {} over large geographical regions aids the study of plate tectonics and helps in the search for oil fields and large mineral deposits.

Take home experiment: determining g g

Use a simple pendulum to determine the acceleration due to gravity g g in your own locale. Cut a piece of a string or dental floss so that it is about 1 m long. Attach a small object of high density to the end of the string (for example, a metal nut or a car key). Starting at an angle of less than 10º size 12{"10"°} {} , allow the pendulum to swing and measure the pendulum’s period for 10 oscillations using a stopwatch. Calculate g size 12{g} {} . How accurate is this measurement? How might it be improved?

An engineer builds two simple pendula. Both are suspended from small wires secured to the ceiling of a room. Each pendulum hovers 2 cm above the floor. Pendulum 1 has a bob with a mass of 10 kg size 12{"10"`"kg"} {} . Pendulum 2 has a bob with a mass of 100 kg size 12{"100"`"kg"} {} . Describe how the motion of the pendula will differ if the bobs are both displaced by 12º size 12{"12"°} {} .

The movement of the pendula will not differ at all because the mass of the bob has no effect on the motion of a simple pendulum. The pendula are only affected by the period (which is related to the pendulum’s length) and by the acceleration due to gravity.

Phet explorations: pendulum lab

Play with one or two pendulums and discover how the period of a simple pendulum depends on the length of the string, the mass of the pendulum bob, and the amplitude of the swing. It’s easy to measure the period using the photogate timer. You can vary friction and the strength of gravity. Use the pendulum to find the value of g on planet X. Notice the anharmonic behavior at large amplitude.

Pendulum Lab

Section summary

  • A mass m size 12{m} {} suspended by a wire of length L size 12{L} {} is a simple pendulum and undergoes simple harmonic motion for amplitudes less than about 15º size 12{"15"°} {} .

    The period of a simple pendulum is

    T = L g , size 12{T=2π sqrt { { {L} over {g} } } } {}

    where L size 12{L} {} is the length of the string and g is the acceleration due to gravity.

Conceptual questions

Pendulum clocks are made to run at the correct rate by adjusting the pendulum’s length. Suppose you move from one city to another where the acceleration due to gravity is slightly greater, taking your pendulum clock with you, will you have to lengthen or shorten the pendulum to keep the correct time, other factors remaining constant? Explain your answer.


As usual, the acceleration due to gravity in these problems is taken to be g = 9.80 m / s 2 , unless otherwise specified.

What is the length of a pendulum that has a period of 0.500 s?

6.21 cm

Some people think a pendulum with a period of 1.00 s can be driven with “mental energy” or psycho kinetically, because its period is the same as an average heartbeat. True or not, what is the length of such a pendulum?

What is the period of a 1.00-m-long pendulum?

2.01 s

How long does it take a child on a swing to complete one swing if her center of gravity is 4.00 m below the pivot?

The pendulum on a cuckoo clock is 5.00 cm long. What is its frequency?

2.23 Hz

Two parakeets sit on a swing with their combined center of mass 10.0 cm below the pivot. At what frequency do they swing?

(a) A pendulum that has a period of 3.00000 s and that is located where the acceleration due to gravity is 9 . 79 m/s 2 size 12{9 "." "79"`"m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} is moved to a location where it the acceleration due to gravity is 9 . 82 m/s 2 size 12{9 "." "82"`"m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} . What is its new period? (b) Explain why so many digits are needed in the value for the period, based on the relation between the period and the acceleration due to gravity.

(a) 2.99541 s

(b) Since the period is related to the square root of the acceleration of gravity, when the acceleration changes by 1% the period changes by ( 0 . 01 ) 2 = 0 . 01% size 12{ \( 0 "." "01" \) rSup { size 8{2} } =0 "." "01"%} {} so it is necessary to have at least 4 digits after the decimal to see the changes.

A pendulum with a period of 2.00000 s in one location ( g = 9 . 80 m/s 2 size 12{g=9 "." "80"`"m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} ) is moved to a new location where the period is now 1.99796 s. What is the acceleration due to gravity at its new location?

(a) What is the effect on the period of a pendulum if you double its length?

(b) What is the effect on the period of a pendulum if you decrease its length by 5.00%?

(a) Period increases by a factor of 1.41 ( 2 size 12{ sqrt {2} } {} )

(b) Period decreases to 97.5% of old period

Find the ratio of the new/old periods of a pendulum if the pendulum were transported from Earth to the Moon, where the acceleration due to gravity is 1 . 63 m/s 2 size 12{1 "." "63"`"m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} .

At what rate will a pendulum clock run on the Moon, where the acceleration due to gravity is 1 . 63 m/s 2 size 12{1 "." "63"`"m/s" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} , if it keeps time accurately on Earth? That is, find the time (in hours) it takes the clock’s hour hand to make one revolution on the Moon.

Slow by a factor of 2.45

Suppose the length of a clock’s pendulum is changed by 1.000%, exactly at noon one day. What time will it read 24.00 hours later, assuming it the pendulum has kept perfect time before the change? Note that there are two answers, and perform the calculation to four-digit precision.

If a pendulum-driven clock gains 5.00 s/day, what fractional change in pendulum length must be made for it to keep perfect time?

length must increase by 0.0116%.

Questions & Answers

how can chip be made from sand
Eke Reply
is this allso about nanoscale material
are nano particles real
Missy Reply
Hello, if I study Physics teacher in bachelor, can I study Nanotechnology in master?
Lale Reply
no can't
where is the latest information on a no technology how can I find it
where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
Jobilize.com Reply
Practice Key Terms 1

Get Jobilize Job Search Mobile App in your pocket Now!

Get it on Google Play Download on the App Store Now

Source:  OpenStax, Yupparaj english program physics for mathayom 4, corresponding to the thai physics books 1 and 2. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11660/1.1
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Yupparaj english program physics for mathayom 4, corresponding to the thai physics books 1 and 2' conversation and receive update notifications?