Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Léon Foucault: a doodle in Physics curriculum

No, it's not about Nicolau Copernicus ! The interactive Google doodle of today, September 18th is about the celebration of the 194th anniversary of the French physicist on Foucault. It is based on the Foucault pendulum - an innovative device Foucault created to demonstrate the effect of the earth’s rotation.

Foucault was born in 1819 in Paris. He presented his theory of Earth’s rotation at an exhibition in Paris,  in the Meridian of the Paris Observatory in 1851, building a 67-metre pendulum that moved clockwise, proving the ground below it was moving counter-clockwise. Foucault caused a sensation with his famous pendulum experiment.

Léon Foucault

Foucault was born the son of a publisher in Paris on September 18, 1819 and originally studied medicine, but was forced to give it up after developing a fear of blood.

On this biography Foucault is described:

"Nothing about the boy announced that he would be illustrious some day; his health was delicate, his character mild, timid and not expansive. The frailty of his constitution and the slow way he worked made it impossible for him to study at college. He was only able to study successfully thanks to the help of dedicated tutors watched over by his mother."

Lissajousa childhood friend

His career as a physicist began shortly after, assisting and collaborating with  Alfred Donne and Hippolyte Fizeau.

In 1885 Foucault discovered that the force required for the rotation of a copper disc becomes greater when it is made to rotate with its rim between the poles of a magnet, the disc at the same time becoming heated by the eddy current or “Foucault currents” induced in the metal.

Two years later he invented the Foucault polarizer, and in 1888 devised a method of testing the mirror reflecting telescope to determine its shape – the so-called Foucault knife-edge test which is still used in amateur telescopes.

Foucault died of multiple sclerosis on February 11, 1868 at the age of 48 after being made a member of many of the top scientific societies in Europe.

His name among those of seventy-two French scientists, engineers, and mathematicians is engraved on the Eiffel Tower.

Credits: UCDavis


“His teachers described him as lazy, he did not submit work on time, so that his mother had to employ tutors to educate him at home."

As we know, sometimes, the best students in school are not the 'genius' ! Einstein, and a good number of great scientists, musicians or poets demonstrate that.

From time to time we discover 'little genius' among our students! They are not the brightest in the classroom, but we feel that they have something special ! And we do everything to help them to understand their natural skills so they could develop later and find their own way.

They are disconnected from the curriculum, distracted, sometimes with a difficult behaviour or too shy. And we encourage them as 'special' students who need a different kind of help in school.

Well, the Google doodle will be a good interactive digital resource to introduce in your curriculum, if you a are teaching Physics.

The doodle allows students to manipulate the swinging bob according to where on earth they happen to be.

Level: Secondary Education

Curriculum : Sciences ; Physics

After all, this is a simbolic day that Google helps to promote. We can introduce Foucault's pendulum in different lessons and organize events or activities with the students.

Schools are the best networks of 
teaching and learning. They have an important role aiming to renew and reinvigorate global knowledge as they have the mission to educate children and adolescents as future citizens.

Be creative! Use your imagination and students creativity. They are the great motivators to our lessons!


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Léon Foucault: a doodle in Physics curriculum by G-Souto is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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