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Body suspended from a fixed point so that it can swing back and forth under the influence of gravity. A simple pendulum consists of a bob (weight) suspended at the end of a string. The periodic motion of a pendulum is constant, but can be made longer or shorter by increasing or decreasing the length of the string. A change in the mass of the bob alone does not affect the period. Because of their constancy, pendulums were long used to regulate the movement of clocks. Other, special kinds of pendulums are used to measure the value of g, the acceleration due to gravity, and to show that the earth rotates on its axis (seeFoucault pendulum).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pendulum, visit Britannica.com.