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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • State the forces that act on a simple pendulum
  • Determine the angular frequency, frequency, and period of a simple pendulum in terms of the length of the pendulum and the acceleration due to gravity
  • Define the period for a physical pendulum
  • Define the period for a torsional pendulum

Pendulums are in common usage. Grandfather clocks use a pendulum to keep time and a pendulum can be used to measure the acceleration due to gravity. For small displacements, a pendulum is a simple harmonic oscillator.

The simple pendulum

A simple pendulum    is defined to have a point mass, also known as the pendulum bob , which is suspended from a string of length L with negligible mass ( [link] ). Here, the only forces acting on the bob are the force of gravity (i.e., the weight of the bob) and tension from the string. The mass of the string is assumed to be negligible as compared to the mass of the bob.

In the figure, a horizontal bar is shown. A string of length L extends from the bar at an angle theta counterclockwise from the vertical. The vertical direction is indicated by a dashed line extending down from where the string is attached to the bar. A circular bob of mass m is attached to the lower end of the string. The arc from the mass to the vertical is indicated by another dashed line and is a length s. A red arrow showing the time T of the oscillation of the mob is shown along the string line toward the bar. A coordinate system is shown near the bob with the positive y direction aligned with the string and pointing toward the pivot point and the positive x direction pointing tangent to the arc and away from the equilibrium position. An blue arrow from the bob toward the pivot, along the string, is labeled F sub T. A red arrow from the bob pointing down is labeled w = m g. A red arrow pointing tangent to the arc and toward equilibrium, in the minus x direction, is labeled minus m g sine theta. A red arrow at an angle theta counterclockwise from w is labeled minus m g cosine theta.
A simple pendulum has a small-diameter bob and a string that has a very small mass but is strong enough not to stretch appreciably. The linear displacement from equilibrium is s , the length of the arc. Also shown are the forces on the bob, which result in a net force of m g sin θ toward the equilibrium position—that is, a restoring force.

Consider the torque on the pendulum. The force providing the restoring torque is the component of the weight of the pendulum bob that acts along the arc length. The torque is the length of the string L times the component of the net force that is perpendicular to the radius of the arc. The minus sign indicates the torque acts in the opposite direction of the angular displacement:

τ = L ( m g sin θ ) ; I α = L ( m g sin θ ) ; I d 2 θ d t 2 = L ( m g sin θ ) ; m L 2 d 2 θ d t 2 = L ( m g sin θ ) ; d 2 θ d t 2 = g L sin θ .

The solution to this differential equation involves advanced calculus, and is beyond the scope of this text. But note that for small angles (less than 15 degrees), sin θ and θ differ by less than 1%, so we can use the small angle approximation sin θ θ . The angle θ describes the position of the pendulum. Using the small angle approximation gives an approximate solution for small angles,

d 2 θ d t 2 = g L θ .

Because this equation has the same form as the equation for SHM, the solution is easy to find. The angular frequency is

ω = g L

and the period is

T = 2 π L g .

The period of a simple pendulum depends on its length and the acceleration due to gravity. The period is completely independent of other factors, such as mass and the maximum displacement. As with simple harmonic oscillators, the period T for a pendulum is nearly independent of amplitude, especially if θ is less than about 15 ° . Even simple pendulum clocks can be finely adjusted and remain accurate.

Note the dependence of T on g . If the length of a pendulum is precisely known, it can actually be used to measure the acceleration due to gravity, as in the following example.

Measuring acceleration due to gravity by 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 given the period T and the length L of a pendulum. We can solve T = 2 π L g for g , assuming only that the angle of deflection is less than 15 ° .


  1. Square T = 2 π L g and solve for g :
    g = 4 π 2 L T 2 .
  2. Substitute known values into the new equation:
    g = 4 π 2 0.75000 m ( 1.7357 s ) 2 .
  3. Calculate to find g :
    g = 9.8281 m/s 2 .


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

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Questions & Answers

what is electromagnetism
David Reply
It is the study of the electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature. ... It includes the electric force, which pushes all charged particles, and the magnetic force, which only pushes moving charges.
what is units?
Subhajit Reply
units as in how
What is th formular for force
Joseph Reply
F = m x a
State newton's second law of motion
Seth Reply
can u tell me I cant remember
force is equal to mass times acceleration
The acceleration of a system is directly proportional to the and in the same direction as the external force acting on the system and inversely proportional to its mass that is f=ma
The uniform seesaw shown below is balanced on a fulcrum located 3.0 m from the left end. The smaller boy on the right has a mass of 40 kg and the bigger boy on the left has a mass 80 kg. What is the mass of the board?
Asad Reply
Consider a wave produced on a stretched spring by holding one end and shaking it up and down. Does the wavelength depend on the distance you move your hand up and down?
Sohail Reply
how can one calculate the value of a given quantity
Helen Reply
To determine the exact value of a percent of a given quantity we need to express the given percent as fraction and multiply it by the given number.
briefly discuss rocket in physics
Ibrahim Reply
ok let's discuss
What is physics
Nura Reply
physics is the study of natural phenomena with concern with matter and energy and relationships between them
a potential difference of 10.0v is connected across a 1.0AuF in an LC circuit. calculate the inductance of the inductor that should be connected to the capacitor for the circuit to oscillate at 1125Hza potential difference of 10.0v is connected across a 1.0AuF in an LC circuit. calculate the inducta
Royalty Reply
L= 0.002H
how did you get it?
is the magnetic field of earth changing
tibebeab Reply
what is thought to be the energy density of multiverse and is the space between universes really space
can you explain it
Energy can not either created nor destroyed .therefore who created? and how did it come to existence?
Suzana Reply
this greatly depend on the kind of energy. for gravitational energy, it is result of the shattering effect violent collision of two black holes on the space-time which caused space time to be disturbed. this is according to recent study on gravitons and gravitational ripple. and many other studies
and not every thing have to pop into existence. and it could have always been there . and some scientists think that energy might have been the only entity in the euclidean(imaginary time T=it) which is time undergone wick rotation.
What is projectile?
Nana Reply
An object that is launched from a device
2 dimensional motion under constant acceleration due to gravity
Not always 2D Awais
no comments
why not? a bullet is a projectile, so is a rock I throw
bullet travel in x and y comment same as rock which is 2 dimensional
no all pf you are wrong. projectile is any object propelled through space by excretion of a force which cease after launch
for awais, there is no such thing as constant acceleration due to gravity, because gravity change from place to place and from different height
it is the object not the motion or its components
where are body center of mass on present.
Balwant Reply
on the mid point
is the magnetic field of the earth changing?
does shock waves come to effect when in earth's inner atmosphere or can it have an effect on the thermosphere or ionosphere?
and for the question from bal want do you mean human body or just any object in space
A stone is dropped into a well of 19.6m deep and the impact of sound heared after 2.056 second ,find the velocity of sound in air.
Sisco Reply
9.53 m/s ?
In this case, the velocity of sound is 350 m/s.
some calculations is need. then you will get exact result.
i mean how? isn't it just a d over t?
calculate the time it takes the stone to hit the ground then minus the stone's time to the total time... then divide the total distance by the difference of the time
awit lenard. Hahahah ari ga to!
Practice Key Terms 3

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Source:  OpenStax, University physics volume 1. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12031/1.5
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