Dramatic Foucault Pendulum to be Installed at UB

Release Date: April 13, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Physics Department in the University at Buffalo's College of Arts and Sciences will install a dramatic, 25-foot-long Foucault Pendulum extending from the third floor of Fronczak Hall to the lobby level of the building on the UB North (Amherst) Campus at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, April 14.

The Foucault Pendulum, named after the French physicist Jean-Bernard-Leon Foucault, is the only instrument that can demonstrate without access to the sky that the earth is rotating.

The weight or "bob" at the bottom of the pendulum was designed by Reinhard Reitzenstein¸ UB assistant professor of art, in the shape of an electron orbital. It weighs nearly 100 pounds.

"This is probably the first Foucault Pendulum that symbolically combines the large-scale rotation of the earth with atomic rotational states," explained John Cerne, Ph.D., UB assistant professor of physics.

The "bob" in the Fronczak Hall lobby will take approximately 35 hours to oscillate in a complete circle, starting its rotation in the north-south direction, then switching to the east-west direction and then returning to north-south again.

The design of the UB pendulum is based on one at the Buffalo Museum of Science and one at the University of Louisville; both institutions provided the UB team with generous assistance.

The pendulum is one of the first items to be displayed in the physics department's permanent Physics and Arts Exhibition, which will open officially in the lobby of Fronczak Hall in a few weeks.

The Physics and Arts Exhibition in the UB Department of Physics is a team effort between professors and students in the Department of Physics and the Department of Art, as well as staff in the machine shop of the College of Arts and Sciences. High school students participating this summer in the physics department's first Physics & Arts Summer Institute will build part of the exhibition. Applications for the institute are being accepted by the department at http://www.physics.buffalo.edu/pasi.

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