Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the life of the nineteenth-century, French physicist Léon Foucault, and features one of his most impressive inventions: the Foucault pendulum.
Back in the 19th century, it was well known that the earth rotated on its axis, but scientists had struggled to find a simple way of demonstrating this concept. Some particularly ambitious researchers tried dropping weights from high altitudes, or even launching a cannon balls vertically upwards and hoping the earth rotated sufficiently while the projectile was airborne that the ball’s launch point and landing point would deviate in a measurable fashion.
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Luckily, before anyone could get seriously injured by these types of experiments, Foucault came to the rescue. He devised a stunningly-elegant test using a multi-directional pendulum. The pendulum would be released over a thin layer of sand, at such a height that the pendulum’s bob would barely graze…
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