If you are ever going to look at pendulum clocks hanging from the same wall, you might notice that they will be swinging in perfect opposition to one another. It is not a coincidence and it didn’t just happen to you.
It was first discovered around 300 years ago by a Dutch scientist who noticed that his two pendulum clocks which he hand hung on his wall were doing the exact same thing.
Christiaan Huygens was so fascinated about this phenomenon that he stopped the clocks and reset them, curious if the same outcome would occur. And it did. After about 30 minutes, even though the pendulums were set to swing at different intervals, they would synch and swing in opposition.
Huygens dedicated his time to discovering the origin of the phenomenon, but his time and another 3 centuries did not suffice.
Luckily, Portuguese physicists have solved the enigma. It seems that if two pendulum clocks are placed on the same wall, the pendulums’ movements create sound waves that travel through the wall and “pulse into” the other mechanism.
The Portuguese physicist recreated Huygens’ conditions and measured the pulses with very precise sensors. The test would sometimes last for days, but pendulums would eventually re-synch and swing in opposition.
Dr. Henrique M. Oliveira, who is a mathematician at the University of Lisbon, describes the entire process to us: the clocks produce “two ticks” which give different directions to each pendulum. The effect is slow and does not have any observable impact initially.
But in time, the amount of ticks adds up and pendulums start shifting from each other until they reach perfect balance. Once this stage is reached, the synching process ceases to occur since it has fulfilled its purpose.
Dr. Oliveira goes forward with his statements suggesting that he and his colleague, Dr. Luis V. Melo, have established that this is a basic principle which does not only apply to pendulum clocks, but to a vast majority of sciences such as biology or economics. He offers the example of blood cells piling up in the human heart which inevitably create the heartbeat.
Dr. Oliveira and Dr. Melo’s discovery does not only solve a 300 year old question, but it puts our knowledge of the world into perspective. The basic principle is that the world is a response to a certain stimulus.
If we can properly identify what stimulus causes a reaction at any given time within any given science, then we might reach scientific discoveries faster than we have ever done before.
Photo Credits deviantart.com