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Watching the world turn

Fort Lewis College installs Foucault pendulum thanks to donor’s gift

Grace Deltscheff with David Garner from the Jaynes Corporation
Grace Deltscheff with David Garner from the Jaynes Corporation

Fort Lewis College (FLC) now has its own Foucault pendulum. The polished ball, weighing over 200 pounds, swings from a three-story cable at the northeast corner of the soon-to-be-completed Geosciences, Physics & Engineering (GPE) Hall. More than just a decoration, a Foucault pendulum is actually a scientific instrument.

A Foucault pendulum shows the rotation of the Earth. As it swings, it appears that the plane the pendulum is swinging on is moving. In reality, the plane of the swing isn’t moving at all; instead it’s the Earth that’s moving. As the Earth rotates, the floor beneath FLC’s pendulum, which displays a compass rose, shows that rotation.

Foucault pendulums show different results depending on where they are located in the world. A pendulum at the North Pole, for instance, would make one clockwise rotation per day. A pendulum at the South Pole would also make one rotation per day, but counterclockwise.

The Geosciences, Physics & Engineering Hall will be home to an array of scientific equipment to help study the Earth and beyond, including the Foucault pendulum, an invention that continues to inspire and educate since the mid-1800s. The facility will house laboratories and classrooms with cutting edge equipment to aid in student research and learning.

The Fort Lewis College pendulum is made possible by the generosity of Grace Deltscheff on behalf of her and her late husband, Gustav Deltscheff. The pendulum was created by Academy Pendulum Sales, a California company specializing in Foucault pendulums.

For more information on the Geosciences, Physics & Engineering Hall, visit www.fortlewis.edu/gpe. More opportunities to name equipment and rooms within the new building are still available.

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