Xavier Magazine

Behind the… Foucault Pendulum

pendulum• The Lindner Family Physics Building was built in 1991 to house a Foucault pendulum—a device named after the physicist Léon Foucault. A dome was included in its construction plans to accommodate the length of the pendulum’s wire.

• The pendulum was installed seven years later after a fundraising drive organized by professors in the Department of Physics.

• According to a 1998 issue of Xavier Newswire, the pendulum’s total cost was approximately $25,000.

• The brass ball that hangs off the wire is technically called a bob and weighs 254 pounds—that’s equivalent to the weight of about one and a half kegs of beer.

• The steel wire is 25 feet long.

• Though the bob appears to swing in a circular motion, it actually oscillates on a single plane while the earth rotates around it.

• Only five other Foucault pendulums operate in Ohio, ranging from Cleveland to Portsmouth.

• The map underneath—which is in proper north-south direction—features the United States and is made up of 133 individual pieces of wood. It was designed and created by former physics professor Raymond Miller.

• The map’s design itself is called an intarsia, which is an art technique developed during the Renaissance that involves inlaid pattern and wooden mosaics.

• The map’s pieces, which are cut at 10-degree angles, are made of different types of wood, including Red Oak, African Mahogany and American Walnut.