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arXiv:physics/9710029 v1 22 Oct 1997

M. I. Molina

Casilla 653, Las Palmeras 3425, Santiago, Chile.

Abstract

Two simple, interpolatory-like linearizations are shown for the simple pen-

PACS: 07.10.Y, 02.60.E

∗

mmolina@abello.dic.uchile.cl

1

A commonplace approximation when teaching the motion of a simple

pendulum is to assume a small initial amplitude, so that the equation of

motion can be safely approximated with the one corresponding to a harmonic

case of not necessarily small initial amplitudes one is obliged to use the

full formula for the period of the pendulum, involving an elliptic integral or

its perturbation series1 or numerical methods. I describe below, a simple

period for the pendulum that can be used for any initial amplitude.

Let us consider a simple pendulum of length l in a (uniform) gravitational

field g. The equation of motion is

d2 Θ g

= − sin(Θ) (1)

dt2 l

tion), which leads to the approximate equation (d2 Θ/dt2 ) = −(g/l)Θ, i.e.,

q

the harmonic oscillator equation with period T0 = 2π l/g. What we want

to do is to extend this linearization procedure in such a way as to be able

to use it even at large initial amplitudes. To do that, we have to replace the

sin(Θ) term by something of the form F (Θ0 )Θ, where F (Θ0 ) is an amplitude-

dependent coefficient. This term will compensate for the fact that the force

is not really linear in Θ. Thus, for small initial amplitudes where the usual

linearization is valid, F (Θ0 ) ≈ 1, while for amplitudes near π, where the force

2

Θ0 since by symmetry, the period of the pendulum can only depend on the

magnitude of the initial amplitude, |Θ0 |. A simple F (θ0 ) that obeys these

requirements is

!α

sin(Θ0 )

F (Θ0 ) = (2)

Θ0

where α is a number to be chosen judiciously (see below). With the above,

the equation of motion is

!α

d2 Θ g sin(Θ0 )

+ Θ=0 (3)

dt 2 l Θ0

chosen in a variety of ways. We can, for instance, impose that the main cor-

rective term in the low-amplitude expansion of T, coincide with the leading

π/2 dφ

Z

Texact = (2/π) T0 (4)

0 (1 − k2 sin(φ)2 )1/2

!3/8

Θ0

T = T0 (7)

sin(Θ0 )

3

In the same spirit, the reader can check that the choice

" 2 #π2 /8

Θ0

F (Θ0 ) = 1 − (8)

π

" 2 #−π2 /16

Θ0

T = T0 1− (9)

π

which, in the low amplitude limit, coincides with Eq.(5), although its fit over

all the angular range is not as good as with the first choice, Eq.(2).

Figure 1 shows a comparison between the periods for the exact case,

Eq.(4), the main perturbative correction to the low-amplitude case, Eq.(5)

and our two interpolatory approximations, Eqs.(7) and (9). The agree-

ment using the interpolation scheme is quite satisfactory, remaining at Θ =

2 (114.60) within 1% and 4% from the exact values for interpolations (7) and

(9), respectively.

References

1

J. B. Marion and S. T. Thornton, Classical Dynamics of Particles and

Systems, third edition (Saunders, 1988), pp. 143-147.

4

Captions List

Fig.1 : Comparison of periods for the simple pendulum obtained from the ex-

act solution, perturbative, interpolation scheme (7) and interpolation scheme

(9).

5

6

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