Special pendulums

Would you like to see in detail how some very particular types of pendulums work?

The online special pendulum simulations on this page will allow you to see visually how some very particular pendulums work, such as the conical pendulum, the Newton’s cradle or the Foucalt pendulum.

Special pendulums are particular devices or configurations of pendulums that exhibit interesting or unusual behaviors. These pendulums are studied in physics and used as tools in a variety of areas, such as scientific research, engineering and education.

Here are some examples of special pendulums:

Double pendulum. Consists of two single pendulums connected together. This system exhibits chaotic behaviors and is used to study complex phenomena, such as chaos theory and nonlinear dynamics.

Conical pendulum. Instead of oscillating in a vertical plane, the conical pendulum oscillates in an inclined plane. The string is fixed at a point and the mass describes a cone as it oscillates. It is useful for illustrating concepts of centrifugal force and angular acceleration.

Foucault pendulum. A long, heavy pendulum that oscillates in a fixed plane as the Earth rotates beneath it. Because of the Earth’s rotation, the plane of oscillation of the pendulum appears to rotate slowly relative to the Earth’s surface. This pendulum is famous for demonstrating the rotation of the Earth.

Inverted pendulum. A pendulum in which the mass is above the point of suspension rather than below. This type of pendulum is used in control and stabilization systems, such as in robot line followers.

Newton’s cradle. Consists of a series of identical balls suspended on wires or cables of different lengths so that they form a straight line. It is a classic example of how the amount of motion and energy is conserved in a closed system.

These are just a few examples of special pendulums. The physics of the pendulum is a broad and fascinating subject, and there are many other configurations and variations that are studied and used in various applications.

In short, the online simulations of special pendulums on this page will help you to understand the operation of these interesting devices, which in turn are the basis for much more advanced topics in physics.

Newton’s cradle


Dragging a ball introduces energy into the system. Observe how that energy passes from one ball to another.

Conical pendulum


In this simulation, the ball moves describing a circular horizontal path. Observe what happens as the period varies. Is there an equilibrium of forces?

Foucalt’s pendulum


Foucalt’s pendulum is a device invented by the French scientist Leon Foucault to test the rotation of the Earth.
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Swing


Explain why some swings reach higher than others.
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