UAA Art Analysis | A French physicist’s discovery hangs in UAA/APU Consortium Library

While perusing the UAA/APU Consortium Library, it’s hard to miss the 240-pound brass pendulum swinging back and forth at the base of the library’s spiral staircase. The Foucault Pendulum incorporates both a unique centerpiece to the library and an element of physics.

A 52-foot cable hangs from the ceiling and anchors the pendulum’s brass bob. At the base is a bench for viewers to sit and rest at.

Given as a gift from UAA’s Alumni Association, the pendulum features 360 names of UAA alumni who each donated $100 toward the pendulum. The names are engraved on tiles on top of the pendulum’s guard rail and represent the 360 degrees in a circle. The pendulum was fully funded in 2007.

“What I find the most valuable part of the pendulum is when people start to look at it and study it and talk about it and really understand what’s going on,” dean of the UAA/APU Consortium Library Steve Rollins said in a 2014 article on UAA’s website. “A kind of light bulb goes on and they realize it’s not what they perceive it to be. I think that’s one of those ‘eureka’ moments that people get, and I think that’s a metaphor for education.”

Foucault Pendulums are named after French physicist Jean Foucault, who used it to demonstrate the rotation of the earth in 1851, according to an article on the UAA/APU Consortium Library’s website. The pendulum was the first way to accurately demonstrate the earth’s rotation using a laboratory device instead of relying on astronomy.

Pendulums typically incorporate a wire connected to a heavy symmetrical bob. Pendulums are a representation of Newton’s first law, which states an object in motion will stay in motion at the same speed and in the same direction unless acted on by an unbalanced force, according to the Physics Classroom. The pendulum will continue to swing consistently until another force acts on it.

All pendulums lose energy as they swing due to air resistance. To prevent UAA’s Foucault Pendulum from slowing down or stopping, a doughnut-shaped electromagnet turns on and off to keep the pendulum swinging.

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“It’s so cool,” freshmen fine arts major Aaron Porter said.

The Foucault Pendulum has become a centerpiece for the library and a silent addition that fits the atmosphere of the building. For more information on the pendulum, visit the UAA/APU Consortium Library’s website.

Have you seen art at UAA you want to know more about? Contact Gabby Vance at [email protected]