Syncing 32 Metronomes

MetronomeThis is really interesting even you aren’t a physicist. These people have started 32 metronomes at random times. Then, over the course of about 2 minutes, 31 of the metronomes get in sync and 1 gets perfectly out of sync. This one metronome that is anti-synced seems like it will stay that way. Apparently, this position is an unstable equilibrium, however. What that means is that while it is in equilibrium, everything is fine. But if the movement of the shaking table pushes it slightly off that equilibrium, it will just keep moving, eventually landed at the sync state—which is stable. This takes another 2 minutes.

It seems that all that is happening here is that the metronomes are placed on a swing. This internal forcing causes the metronomes to gravitate toward a shared phase. Note that the frequency of the ticking is given: all the metronomes are set at the same frequency. Setting all of the metronomes at different frequencies could create some interesting percussive music. I’m thinking John Cage.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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