Physical Science Experiments
Swinging with Galileo

These physical science experiments dates back to 1583. Galileo discovered that he could several objects swinging back and forth on a string by swinging just one object. Try these simple physics experiments to see if you can get all the items to swing like Galileo did in 1583.

Galileo experiment, Photo by Myrna Martin
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Materials

  • String
  • Clothesline rope
  • Teaspoon
  • Paperclips
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Cut two strings 12 inches long.
  2. Cut other strings different lengths but shorter than the first 2 you cut. Tie one of the long strings to a teaspoon.
  3. Tie the other long string to a paperclip.
  4. Tie the other four strings that are different lengths to paperclips.
  5. Tie all six strings to the clothesline rope.
  6. Secure both ends of the clothesline rope so it is taut. Make a guess what will happen if you swing the teaspoon so it moves back and forth.
  7. Swing the teaspoon and observe what happens. Were you correct?
  8. The swinging teaspoon should have caused the paperclips to start swinging also. The string that was the same length as the teaspoon string should have move the most.

More physical science experiments

  1. Move the strings to different locations. See if it makes a difference.
  2. Try lengthening or shortening the different strings to see what happens.
  3. Try hanging washers instead of paperclips on the string. Find out what happens.
  4. Use a wire coat hanger or a thin dowel for the experiments and see what happens.

Science behind the activity

The energy from the swinging spoon gives the other strings a push. The string that is the same length as the teaspoon swings with the most vigor. The other strings are different lengths and swing back and forth at different times than the teaspoon because of the length of the string. Therefore they do not get as much of a push as the longer string.

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Physical Science Experiments, Swinging With Galileo Try these fun physical science experiments first done by Galileo. See if you can make things swing on a string by pushing one object to set all the hanging strings in motion.

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