Pendulum Snake

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In this physics activity, learners assemble and/or investigate a pendulum "snake." Several large steel hex-nuts are suspended on strings of successively increasing length to form a series of pendulums with successively increasing periods. When all pendulums are released simultaneously with the same amplitude, they gradually form an undulating snake-like pattern, and then undergo further changes which are fascinating from both a visual and mathematical perspective.

Quick Guide

Learning Time:

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 10 3/4 in hex nuts (or 1/2 in)
  • 8 m braided string
  • 1/2 in Schedule 40 PVC pipe pieces: 58 cm long piece, drilled; 2 45cm long pieces; 4 25cm long pieces; 2 elbow joints; 2 T joints; 4 end caps
  • 10 paper clips
  • tapestry needle (or paper clip)
  • 21 in long piece of 1 in x 4 in
  • PVC cutters
  • drill and 1/8 in drill bit
  • masking tape
  • scissors
  • metric measuring tape
  • pencil
  • a method for calculating the desired lengths (or a list of lengths already calculated – the list is included in this write up)
  • sheet metal screws, #6, 1/2 in long, pan head, Phillips


  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Equations and Inequalities
      • Patterns
      • Variables and Expressions
    • Measurement
      • Rate
    • Number and Operations
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
      • Potential and Kinetic Energy
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Center of Gravity
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Rathjen, Don ; Lambertson, Lori


  • All rights reserved, Exploratorium, 2005