The Pendulum Experiment | Fifty Reasons: Copernicus or the Bible, F.E. Pasche

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Earth Stands Fast

According to the Bible, the earth stands still in space. Psalm 93:1, “The earth stands fast that it cannot be moved.” I Chronicles 16:30, “The world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.” Psalm 104:5, “He hath founded the earth upon its base, that it should not be removed forever.” As a builder constructs a house on a base or a foundation that it stands firm against the storm, even so has the heavenly architect firmly founded the earth, this great building, upon its base, so that it can never be moved from its place. Psalm 119:90, “Thou hast established the earth, and it standeth.” These are only a few passages out of many. It is the literal truth of the Bible. And Jesus, our Redeemer, endorses it by saying: “And the Scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35) And through his apostle he states: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Should we not, then, accept the above passages as divine truth?

The Pendulum Experiment

But did not Foucault’s pendulum prove that the earth revolves in twenty-four hours upon its axis? In the introduction to Ray’s Elements of Astronomy Mr. Peabody calls it “a beautiful experiment.” Andrew White triumphantly exclaims: “And in 1851 the great experiment of Foucault with the pendulum showed to the human eye the earth in motion around its own axis.” (Warfare, 1900, I, p.157) Let us glance briefly at the instrument called the pendulum. Foucault’s pendulum had a sixty-one-pound ball on a steel wire 223 feet in length. If we let a pendulum oscillate in a direction north and south, then will its even oscillation, as Foucault assumes, be unaffected by the rotation of the plane, and consequently the earth will move ahead below its swinging-line.

Now, if this is to prove the rotation of the earth, the deviation of the earth below from the swinging-line of the pendulum must be in all cases the same. But the trouble is, deviation is not the same with all pendulums. The heavier the bob, the slower becomes the deviation of the pendulum, the lighter the bob, the more rapidly the deviation. Since the rotation of the earth upon its axis, if existing, must be a uniform one, necessarily with all pendulums the deviation should be uniform; but this is not the case. Or does the earth move with different velocity under different pendulums?

Dr. Schoepffer, an eyewitness of the experiment, says: “In an introductory speech Dr. Menzzer at Quedlinburg showed that until then there had been no proof for the Copernican hypothesis, the so-called proofs being, after close investigation, just as many confutations, until the Foucault pendulum showed the rotation of the earth uncontrovertibly. The pendulum was tied, the string was burnt, the swinging began, but the pendulum deviated to the left, instead of to the right. It was hastily brought to rest. New burning of the string. This time the deviation was the one desired, and we were invited again to be present in the church the next morning at eight o’clock, to be convinced that the deviation agrees with the theory.

On the following morning, however, we saw that the pendulum during the night had changed its mind and had from the deviation to the right again returned to the left. To me this new proof did not seem to be quite in order. My belief in the Copernican doctrine was shaken by the speech of Dr. Menzzer, and I concluded to go to Berlin for an explanation. After seeing the pendulum-experiment here also and, strangely, again with a deviation to the left, I went to Alexander v. Humboldt, who was indeed ever the first refuge of those seeking information. He received me very friendly and spoke the memorable words: “I have known, too, for a long time, that as yet we have no proof for the Copernican system, but I shall never dare to be the first to attack it. Don’t rush into the wasps’ nest. You will but bring upon yourself the scorn of the thoughtless multitude.”

Furthermore, I have found, by careful experiments, that a skillful experimenter can let the pendulum deviate either to the left or to the right. And we must not overlook the fact that the deviations may be caused by air-currents, electricity, earth-magnetism, special apparatus, and perhaps many other causes. Blunt and Cox observed the most curious and contrary swinging. Phillips of New York found very great hourly deviations in the swinging-line. Walker observed a peculiarly swift deviation when the pendulum swings in the magnetic meridian. D’Oliveira at Rio de Janeiro stated that the pendulum deviates to the right in the direction of the meridian, but to the left in the direction of the parallel. This deviation, diametrically opposed to the theory, was seen very often. And sometimes the pendulum does not deviate at all. Much more could be said against this “beautiful experiment.” Though beautiful it may seem to the theorist, it certainly is far from being irrefragable evidence for the earth’s motion.


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