Finally, An Answer to the 350-Year-Old Question of Why Pendulums Sync Up

New research from scientists in Portugal has shed some light on the answer to the age-old question of why pendulums sync up over time. Portugal’s University of Lisbon is home to Luis Melo and Henrique Oliveira, co-authors of the study which investigated this phenomenon. In order to get to the bottom of this question, the pair of researchers conducted experiments involving two pendulum clocks attached to a wall through a shared aluminum rail.

The First Time Someone Asked Why Pendulums Sync Up

In 1656, a Dutch scientist by the name of Christiaan Huygens invented what came to be the most accurate timepiece at the time: the pendulum clock. It wasn’t until about a decade later, in 1665, that he became the first person to notice this peculiar phenomenon. He was lying in bed, having been struck with a minor illness, when he looked over at the two pendulum clocks hanging on his wall. It was then that he noticed that they were swinging in a synchronized manner, even though they had started swinging in different directions initially. From that point on, this phenomenon has confounded scientists and made countless people wonder why pendulums sync up.

So, Why Do Pendulums Synchronize?

Oliveira and Melo have declared that they know why pendulums sync up. The results of their experiments have led them to believe that the culprit behind this intriguing phenomenon, the real reason why pendulums sync up, is sound waves. Whereas previous tests had been conducted using a movable beam, this time, the duo carried out their test using a wall which could not be moved. Their research showed that the movement of the pendulums generated sound waves, and the energy from the sound waves traveled through the wall and the aluminum bar that the two pendulum clocks shared, affecting the pendulums by causing them to start moving in tandem.

Other Applications of the Research

The two scientists from the University of Lisbon in Portugal have also stated that their research, in addition to answering the centuries-old mystery of why pendulums sync up, also provides some additional insight into information about oscillators.


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