Did you know that playground swings can provide a good lesson in physics—as well as lots of fun? The back-and-forth motion of a swing is an example of a pendulum. We see pendulums in other areas of our lives as well, such as in grandfather (also known as longcase) clocks. But pendulums can do more than provide fun at recess and help tell the time among other scientific applications, they can show that the earth is huge! This is because the swinging motion of a pendulum is due to the force of gravity generated by the earth's size. Other factors, including a pendulum's length, can also affect its motion. A pendulum is an object hung from a fixed point that swings back and forth under the action of gravity. In the example of the playground swing, the swing is supported by chains that are attached to fixed points at the top of the swing set. When the swing is raised and released, it will move freely back and forth due to the force of gravity on it. The swing continues moving back and forth without any extra outside help until friction (between the air and the swing and between the chains and the attachment points) slows it down and eventually stops it.
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