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Coupled Pendulum Swing

When one person swings, the energy transfers to the other swing, creating a rhythmic oscillation between the two.

In Short

Imagine two swings side by side, seemingly ordinary in appearance. However, when a person starts to swing on one, an intriguing phenomenon occurs. Instead of both swings moving independently, the motion of the first swing transfers its energy to the second, bringing the first to a temporary halt. As if in a rhythmic dance, the energy then transfers back, and this periodic transfer continues, making the swings behave like a coupled oscillator.


Details and Theory

The underlying physics of the coupled swings is based on the principles of coupled oscillations and energy conservation. When two oscillators (in this case, the swings) are connected or coupled, they can exchange energy. This means the energy can flow from one oscillator to the other and back again.

Initially, when a person starts swinging, they input a certain amount of kinetic energy into the system. Due to the coupling, this kinetic energy is transferred to the second swing, bringing the first swing to a stop. The second swing now holds most of the system’s energy and swings strongly.

As the second swing reaches the peak of its motion and starts its descent, energy begins to transfer back to the first swing. This back-and-forth transfer continues, creating a rhythmic oscillation between the two swings.

This phenomenon can be compared to two pendulums connected by a spring. When one pendulum is displaced from its equilibrium position and then released, it will start to oscillate. Due to the spring connection, the energy will transfer to the second pendulum, making it oscillate while the first pendulum comes to a temporary halt. The process then repeats in a cyclic manner.

In conclusion, the coupled swings installation is a captivating demonstration of energy conservation and transfer in coupled oscillatory systems. The observable rhythmic dance between the two swings provides an intuitive grasp of complex physical principles, making it both educational and entertaining.