Google Doodle swings to honor Foucault pendulum inventor

Wednesday's Doodle remembers the 194th birthday of French physicist Leon Foucault, who devised a pendulum to explain the earth's rotation.

The Google Doodle of a Foucault pendulum.
The Google Doodle of a Foucault pendulum. Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Google users can take a spin with the latest Google Doodle celebrating the man who crafted the Foucault pendulum.

Born on September 19, 1819, Leon Foucault created the pendulum that bears his name as a way to demonstrate the rotation of our planet. A basic pendulum shows how a weighted, hanging object freely travels back and forth due to the effects of gravity and inertia. The Foucault pendulum took that concept further by showing an object that changed the direction of its swing every so often, thus providing a way to mimic the rotation of the earth.

Foucault first unveiled his pendulum in a public demonstration in February 1851 at the Meridian of the Paris Observatory, according to Wikipedia. That was followed a few weeks later by another showing at the dome of the Pantheon in Paris.

Goodle users can watch the Foucault pendulum in action courtesy of today's Doodle. Watch it long enough, and you'll see the object change direction, knocking down a series of encircling blocks. Don't have enough time? You can speed up the process by clicking on the nearby clock icon and moving the object forward several hours at a stretch.

Those of you curious about the Foucault pendulum will find a helpful description of it at the Smithsonian Institute's Web site.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.


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