The South Pole Foucault Pendulum
August 28, 2012 1:53 PM   Subscribe

The South Pole Foucault Pendulum
posted by beshtya (42 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Aaaannnnd I'm back in love with humanity again.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:06 PM on August 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yay nerds!
posted by rmd1023 at 2:10 PM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


At an altitude of 11,000+ feet we think a bit more slowly.

*hugs polar nerds, especially the Antarctic ones*
posted by rtha at 2:11 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Neat!
posted by mrgroweler at 2:12 PM on August 28, 2012


Needs more Umberto Eco.

Then again, this is high enough on the awesomeness scale that a little Eco might break the measuring instruments.
posted by The World Famous at 2:14 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I rather wish they went into more detail on the modifications they made to arrive at the expected result. Not that I think the conspiracies would extend to modifying the laws of physics, but it does seem to give a bad example of experimental technique.

But indeed, physics, (and the associated nerdery) rock!
posted by Sportbilly at 2:15 PM on August 28, 2012


Since it is against the Antarctica Treaty to have any open flames at the South Pole we could not [eliminate wobble by burning a support string].

Does anyone know the providence of this? Googling it shows this article and other forum links to it.
posted by CrystalDave at 2:15 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


We have demonstrated a physical phenomenon confirming that we are on the axis of rotation of the Earth. Although the result matches our hypothesis and nothing new has been discovered, we have placed ourselves among the stars, and standing beside Galileo in recognition of our planet as a rotating sphere floating in the heavens. We have thus enhanced our own understanding of our place in the Universe.
I love science!
posted by ChuraChura at 2:16 PM on August 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


I believe "stinkin' cold" is perhaps not official meteorological nomenclature. Nevertheless, it has now been enshrined in The Literature for posterity.
posted by Xoebe at 2:22 PM on August 28, 2012


Since it is against the Antarctica Treaty to have any open flames at the South Pole we could not [eliminate wobble by burning a support string].

And why not touch a razor blade to the string to cut it instead of burning? Or are blades illegal at the Pole due to the Antarctica treaty as well? Btw, hope they're not making sparks or operating internal combustion engines down there? *he said as he knew he would be proved ignorant by someone within the next few comments*
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:22 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Since it is against the Antarctica Treaty to have any open flames at the South Pole we could not [eliminate wobble by burning a support string].

Best I can find is ANNEX III, Article 3, paragraph 2 of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty

All open burning of wastes shall be phased out as soon as practicable, but no later than the end of the 1998/1999 season. Pending the completion of such phase-out, when it is necessary to dispose of wastes by open burning, allowance shall be made for the wind direction and speed and the type of wastes to be burnt to limit particulate deposition and to avoid such deposition over areas of special biological, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness significance including, in particular, areas accorded protection under the Antarctic Treaty.

So open burning at the South Pole itself is prohibited. Bummer!
posted by m@f at 2:29 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just realized I may have misunderstood an ironic scientist-nerd joke. My profoundest apologies Nerd Grand-masters of the Pole!
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:32 PM on August 28, 2012



And why not touch a razor blade to the string to cut it instead of burning?

According to the internet, traditionally a flame is used to avoid any side to side motion caused by employing a blade. They're aiming for a true release, so that they don't bias the swing.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:32 PM on August 28, 2012


Pshaw, I can't see how someone releasing it is somehow better than a razor blade touching a taut string ever so gently. Still, I can't help but think one of them snuck a package of cheap matches from Bob's Tavern in there to burn the string, in the name of SCIENCE!
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:35 PM on August 28, 2012


Nothing in the 1959 treaty says anything about open flames or fire and flames and fire get no hits at the Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty site. I suspect this is someone's overly paranoid manager's overly harsh reading of something to prevent some goobs who were horsing around with a 6 story pendulum from accidentally setting a pile of construction materials on fire.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:36 PM on August 28, 2012


I keep hoping that a Foucault Pendulum has something to do with Michel Foucault (it does not).

We know what a Foucault Pendulum does, but what we don't know is what what it does does.
posted by entropone at 2:37 PM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


*hugs polar nerds, especially the Antarctic ones*

Don't encourage their egos. They think the world revolves around them.
posted by hal9k at 2:37 PM on August 28, 2012 [14 favorites]


Our Retired Explorer (dines with Michel Foucault)
posted by bicyclefish at 2:42 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, don't lick them, your tongue will freeze to them. (And I'm not sure how regularly they get to bathe.)
posted by maryr at 2:42 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


When new scientists arrive in the Antarctic, they are informed by the scientists who are already there that there is an international treaty prohibiting open flames. This is because all of the scientists who are already there are The Thing and they do not want to be discovered by the new arrivals until it is too late. Duh.
posted by The World Famous at 2:47 PM on August 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


I've often thought that it must be really amazing to get to spend time at the south pole. Not really equivalent to space travel, but capturing some of the same feeling of being alone with your crew so far from everyone else, in a environment that's empty and unspoiled but deadly. There's something really romantic and inspiring about

it is against the Antarctica Treaty to have any open flames at the South Pole

and cook with electric? Fuck that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:56 PM on August 28, 2012


I thought it was going to be a panopticon that could observe the whole earth and stuff.......or some penguins, criminal penguins.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:57 PM on August 28, 2012


Maybe I'm being slow, but I thought the Earth's day was just under 24hrs, not 24hrs and 50 minutes? I didn't see any explanation of that in the article, just a proud statement of a fact that seems obviously wrong on the surface...
posted by jpeacock at 3:02 PM on August 28, 2012


Maybe I'm being slow, but I thought the Earth's day was just under 24hrs, not 24hrs and 50 minutes? I didn't see any explanation of that in the article, just a proud statement of a fact that seems obviously wrong on the surface...

They are actually at the south pole of Mars, with its 24h 37m day. Hence your confusion.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:05 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm being slow, but I thought the Earth's day was just under 24hrs, not 24hrs and 50 minutes? I didn't see any explanation of that in the article, just a proud statement of a fact that seems obviously wrong on the surface...

I believe that's supposed to be 24 +- 50 minutes.

That, or "At an altitude of 11,000+ feet we think a bit more slowly."
posted by dirigibleman at 3:14 PM on August 28, 2012


Needs more Umberto Eco.

Needs more Pynchon: The pendulum will reveal the frozen spider-monkeys of Vheissu.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:17 PM on August 28, 2012


Cold, hard nerd calculations!
posted by BlueHorse at 4:12 PM on August 28, 2012


Could they not have used a laser to cut through the string?
Or an electromagnet (assuming pendulum bob was ferrous).
posted by etherist at 4:25 PM on August 28, 2012


Maybe I'm being slow, but I thought the Earth's day was just under 24hrs, not 24hrs and 50 minutes?

I had an explanation typed up here that explained the difference between solar days and sidereal days but that's only 4 minutes and in the other direction. Maybe the 50 minutes is their error?
posted by DU at 4:28 PM on August 28, 2012


The stoner scientist nerds piss on your open flame prohibitions! (maybe that's banned too, pissin'.)
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 5:41 PM on August 28, 2012


against the Antarctica Treaty to have any open flames at the South Pole

This may be a post hoc excuse to cover the fact that they didn't think of it until later. 11,000 feet, etc.

Or maybe to cover that they were having too much fun gambling over who could draw the pendulum to make it swing most planarly.
posted by stebulus at 5:43 PM on August 28, 2012


Official meteorological nomenclature is "fucking cold". This is defined as being cold enough that when you go outside, you say "fuck, it's cold!"

I had an explanation typed up here that explained the difference between solar days and sidereal days but that's only 4 minutes and in the other direction. Maybe the 50 minutes is their error?

I think so. I see "24 hours, * 50 minutes" (where I'm replacing a white question mark in a black diamond with *) and I see the same character in other places on the page in places where I'd expect to see some indication of error.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:05 PM on August 28, 2012


OK, I'm gonna derail. I have a Carhartt coat. It is constricting, heavy, awkward, drinks in moisture, lets the wind on through and does damn-diddly-all to combat the cold with insulation.

Why is it so popular with Alaskans, and, apparently, crazy, bearded Antarctic pendulum keepers? Their overpriced canvas crap sucks here in New England come Christmastime, so it must suck harder, there, right? Or is it simply a fashion statement designed to take a beating, as the underlayers are all merino wool and carbon-fiber or somesuch?
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:05 PM on August 28, 2012


I think so. I see "24 hours, * 50 minutes" (where I'm replacing a white question mark in a black diamond with *) and I see the same character in other places on the page in places where I'd expect to see some indication of error.

Yeah, it's supposed to be "24 hours, ± 50 minutes".

The byte in question is 0xB1, which is PLUS-MINUS SIGN in ISO-8859-1; the internal <meta> confirms that the document is ISO-8859-1. But the server's HTTP response headers take precedence over internal information (RFC 2616, ยง7.2.1), and they say the document is UTF-8. Alas, 0xB1 is binary 10110001, which starts with 10, making it a continuation byte according to UTF-8, which means it should only occur as the second or later byte in a multibyte character, the first byte starting with 11. There being no such initial byte here, this is ill-formed UTF-8. Your browser notes the problem with that black diamond character (whose official name, if memory serves, is THIS BYTE IS TOTAL BS).

If you tell your browser to treat the document as ISO-8859-1 it'll look the way they presumably intended, but of course the righteous fix is for their server to be configured to properly report the encoding of the documents it serves.
posted by stebulus at 7:44 PM on August 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ross Ice Shelf swings like a pendulum do.
posted by arcticseal at 8:51 PM on August 28, 2012



OK, I'm gonna derail. I have a Carhartt coat. It is constricting, heavy, awkward, drinks in moisture, lets the wind on through and does damn-diddly-all to combat the cold with insulation.


Mine works great, and has held up like a champ. Although, I have a nicer looking, but ineffective, wool coat for fancy dress occasions.

My derail - my father and one of my professors in college were both at South Pole Station (1973 and 1992) and joined the 300 club while they were there. Read about it here.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:09 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Love my Carhartt. Cuts the wind like nothing else. The rule is waterproof right outta the box, and that makes all the difference with wet and wind. I layer with the silks, wool, or fancy insulators under, but the 'tin coat' is the first line of defense against barb wire, tree branches, hailstones, kicking calves, or whatever nastiness nature throws up that would shred state of the art winterwear. That said, given there isn't any barbed wire and few trees in the Antarctic, I'd probably use something else.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:42 PM on August 28, 2012


Does one look down at the South Pole, or up?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:35 AM on August 29, 2012


Did they find any Shoggoths ?
posted by Pendragon at 3:12 AM on August 29, 2012


Why is it so popular with Alaskans, and, apparently, crazy, bearded Antarctic pendulum keepers? Their overpriced canvas crap sucks here in New England come Christmastime, so it must suck harder, there, right? Or is it simply a fashion statement designed to take a beating, as the underlayers are all merino wool and carbon-fiber or somesuch?


Stuff that keeps me warm in 0deg Fahrenheit in Minnesota will not keep me warm in 25deg Fahrenheit in Boston.
posted by entropone at 7:45 AM on August 30, 2012


Does one look down at the South Pole, or up?

Like a pig, I consider the South Pole my equal.
posted by stebulus at 11:27 AM on August 30, 2012


That's great, thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:45 PM on August 30, 2012


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