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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

what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
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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
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
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Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
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Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
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s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
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how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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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
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