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GCSE Twenty-first century

science: Data collection and
Analysis

Investigation:
The Oscillation of a simple
pendulum

Rosie Andrews
Candidate number: 4004

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The average amount of time taken for 20 oscillations of a
pendulum for different lengths of strings
Aim: To understand whether the length of a pendulum affects the amount of time taken
for it to oscillate

Diagram

Method of the lab experiment

Apparatus:
• Clamp stand
• Pendulum (string with weight at the end)
• 2 blocks of wood
• Stop clock
• Ruler calibrated in cm and mm.

The independent variable we chose to investigate was the length of the string; this we would change
throughout the experiment to learn whether the time taken for 20 oscillations changes. My constants are
the mass of the pendulum and the angle from which the pendulum is began. These I will be checking
throughout the experiment to increase the amount of accuracy and reliability

• Placed string in between 2 blocks of wood to manipulate the swing into a certain direction, so
the string does not circle or go in random directions as this will affect the dependent.
• Clamped wood in place with clamp stand, and adjusted height
• Placed a protractor under wood and placed string so it was at a 40 degree angle
• Released string and started stop clock unanimously, timed the amount of time taken for 20
oscillations

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• Repeated the process six times so it was easier to spot outliers and to work out a more accurate
average.
• Changed the length of the string and repeated all the steps

Method of the animated experiment
The website used: http://monet.physik.unibas.ch/~elmer/pendulum/upend.htm
On this website is an animated pendulum and I experimented by changing the length of the animated
string so it could reinforce or go against the results of my lab experiment

• Chose a length for the pendulum to be released at
• Started the timer and counted 20 swings then stopped the timer
• Repeated the process 3 times – more accurate average
• Changed the length of the pendulum

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Results for lab experiment
Length of Time taken for 20 oscillations (seconds) Average
pendulum (cm) (seconds)
15 15.90 15.47 15.53 15.48 15.38 15.47 15.54
20 18.06 18.15 18.32 18.09 18.03 18.00 18.12
25 19.88 20.00 19.78 19.82 19.88 20.00 19.89
30 21.72 22.85 21.57 21.72 21.56 22.35 21.96
35 22.85 23.43 23.47 23.50 23.46 23.50 23.37
40 25.28 25.38 24.72 25.14 24.81 25.03 25.06
Length of Time (T) taken for one oscillation The square of the time for one
pendulum (cm) complete oscillation (T2)
15 0.777 0.604
20 0.906 0.821
25 0.995 0.990
30 1.098 1.206
35 1.169 1.367
40 1.253 1.570

Results of animated experiment
Time taken for 20 oscillations (seconds)
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Length of Test one Test two Test 3 Average
pendulum (metres)
1.00 38.60 40.60 40.60 39.93
2.00 57.80 57.70 57.80 57.77
3.00 70.60 70.80 70.80 70.73
4.00 83.40 81.70 81.60 82.23
5.00 91.30 95.40 91.30 92.67

Here I can see several anomalous results, these I have highlighted. These anomalous results have
probably been recorded from human error; miscounting the pendulum swings. The decision I then had to
make was whether to keep them in my results, to not use them in calculating my average or to repeat the
test. I chose to repeat the test to make my results as reliable and accurate as possible; keeping them in
there will definitely affect the accuracy of my results and using my other results for an average would
not produce an accurate average because I have not done as many tests for the animated experiment.
This I will look into in my evaluation.

Improved results
Time taken for 20 oscillations (seconds)
Length of Test one Test two Test 3 Average
pendulum (metres)
1.00 40.60 40.60 40.60 40.60
2.00 57.80 57.70 57.80 57.77
3.00 70.60 70.80 70.80 70.73
4.00 81.60 81.70 81.60 81.63
5.00 91.30 91.40 91.30 91.33

Length of Time (T) taken for one oscillation The square of the time for one
pendulum (m) complete oscillation (T2)
1.00 2.03 4.12
2.00 2.89 8.35
3.00 3.54 12.53
4.00 4.08 16.65
5.00 4.57 20.89

Analysis and conclusion
From making the graph and analysing it, I can indentify that there is a positive correlation between the
length of the pendulum and the time taken for one complete oscillation (as the length increases, the time

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also increases as a result). The longer the length of the pendulum, the higher amount of time it takes for
one oscillation. This is shown on all my graphs, T and T2 for both the lab and animated experiments.

Evaluation

After critically analysing both experiments I believe that the animated method is the most accurate. I
believe that these results are more accurate because they have a better line of best fit. Although I did do
more tests in the lab, my results were far more ranged; this is because the experiment was not as
accurate or reliable, due to several factors. Firstly it could have been possible to add some additional
force to the pendulum when releasing it; this force could have been applied to some tests more than
others. In addition, the tautness of the string would have made a difference; the looser, the less chance of
it swinging smoothly (e.g. it could drop and this could affect the swing in some way). Although we did
use blocks of wood to manipulate the pendulum into swinging only from side to side, this was not
entirely reliable. Sometimes the pendulum would swing in other directions slightly (this would affect the
time) this happened more in some tests than others. Finally the angle that the pendulum was released at
may not have been accurate because of the parallax error due to the protractor being so small.
On the other hand, with the animated method, the pendulum had no extra additional force, it always
swung in the same directions, and the length (tautness) never changed in all cases but one the method
was completely accurate. The only flaw to this method was the timer. Due to human error, it is very hard
to stop the clock exactly at the end of 20 oscillations. This is because the diagram is quite small and it is
moving fairly quickly, however this error was also present in the lab experiment, so if I were to do this
experiment again, my timing method is something I would want to ‘tighten up’ and make more accurate.
For the animated experiment, I would also want to improve by increasing the number of tests done for
each one to five; this way I could ignore outliers without having to do an additional test because I would
already have enough results for a reliable average. I would also test more lengths- smaller gaps e.g.
1.5m, 2.5m, by doing this, it could reinforce the results either side of it or show anomalous results more
easily. It would also help me achieve a better line of best fit.

It was very difficult to declare anomalous results in the lab experiment because my results were so
varied – making my results inaccurate. However as the animated experiment results were very similar
for outliers were very easy to discover. The problem with this was that I had to redo the test again; which
took me time, to carry out the test and to recalculate my data. If I were to do this test again I would
definitely take more tests for each one as it will give me a more reliable, accurate average, and I would
not have to repeat the test. However for the lab experiment my graph shows two outstanding, anomalous
results. These are both for the length 15cms, and occur in T vs. length and T2 vs. length
I can identify them as anomalous results as they are plotted a significant distance from the line of best
fit. I predict that causing these anomalous results are caused by poor method; as I started on 15cms, I
was not used to using the equipment or carrying out the experiment, so poor technique was responsible
for my anomalous result.

I believe that both my results were very reliable, although the animated version more than the lab
results. I believe this because if the test were to be taken again, very similar results will be achieved to
the ones that I had. As I did several tests for each length to achieve a better average, and my results were
all very similar (for each length) this shows that my results are quite reliable. My lab experiment,
although the results aren’t as close as close as the others they are still similar; with the two experiments I
have proved the same thing (aim: To understand whether the length of a pendulum affects the amount of
time taken for it to oscillate) I have proven that it has a positive correlation, so my lab experiment and
animated experiment reinforce each other; making my results reliable.

Finally, my conclusion ‘there is a positive correlation between length and time taken to oscillate’ is true.
Firstly as I have proven that my results are both accurate and reliable this means the plots making the
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graph are accurate (subtracting the error of not being able to achieve plotting to the nearest tenth or
hundredth) and my graphs; both of them, clearly show a positive correlation. In addition the relationship
between the length and the time is very obvious; it is very clear and could not be interpreted as anything
else.

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