# A Catechism of the Steam Engine eBook

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## THE PENDULUM AND GOVERNOR.

34. Q.—­By what circumstance is the velocity of vibration of a pendulous body determined?

A.—­By the length of the suspending rod only, or, more correctly, by the distance between the centre of suspension and the centre of oscillation.  The length of the arc described does not signify, as the times of vibration will be the same, whether the arc be the fourth or the four hundredth of a circle, or at least they will be nearly so, and would be so exactly, if the curve described were a portion of a cycloid.  In the pendulum of clocks, therefore, a small arc is preferred, as there is, in that case, no sensible deviation from the cycloidal curve, but in other respects the size of the arc does not signify.

35. Q.—­If then the length of a pendulum be given, can the number of vibrations in a given time be determined?

A.—­Yes; the time of vibration bears the same relation to the time in which a body would fall through a space equal to half the length of the pendulum, that the circumference of a circle bears to its diameter.  The number of vibrations made in a given time by pendulums of different lengths, is inversely as the square roots of their lengths.

36. Q.—­Then when the length of the second’s pendulum is known the proper length of a pendulum to make any given number of vibrations in the minute can readily be computed?

A.—­Yes; the length of the second’s pendulum being known, the length of another pendulum, required to perform any given number of vibrations in the minute, may be obtained by the following rule:  multiply the square root of the given length by 60, and divide the product by the given number of vibrations per minute; the square of the quotient is the length of pendulum required.  Thus if the length of a pendulum were required that would make 70 vibrations per minute in the latitude of London, then SQRT(39.1393) x 60/70 = (5.363)^2 = 28.75 in. which is the length required.

37. Q.—­Can you explain how it comes that the length of a pendulum determines the number of vibrations it makes in a given time?

A.—­Because the length of the pendulum determines the steepness of the circle in which the body moves, and it is obvious, that a body will descend more rapidly over a steep inclined plane, or a steep arc of a circle, than over one in which there is but a slight inclination.  The impelling force is gravity, which urges the body with a force proportionate to the distance descended, and if the velocity due to the descent of a body through a given height be spread over a great horizontal distance, the speed of the body must be slow in proportion to the greatness of that distance.  It is clear, therefore, that as the length of the pendulum determines the steepness of the arc, it must also determine the velocity of vibration.

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