torsion balance

torsion balance

Device used to measure the gravitational acceleration at the Earth's surface. It consists essentially of two small masses at different elevations that are supported at opposite ends of a beam. The latter is suspended from a wire that twists because the masses are affected differently by the force of gravity. When the wire is twisted, an optical system indicates the angle of deflection, and the torque, or twisting force, can be calculated. The torque is correlated with the gravitational force at the point of observation. Torsion balance may also refer to a device used in weighing, a type of equal-arm balance.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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