Total Eclipse Physics

I tried to test the “Allais Effect” during the Total Eclipse. In 1954, the economist Maurice Allais saw the precession of a pendulum reverse during a total eclipse. Subsequent experiments during other total eclipses mostly failed to replicate the result. I suspended a 30 lb dumbbell from a 13′ line. I used a red laser pointing parallel to the line and videoed where it crossed a ruler. It is difficult enough to see precession in an un-powered pendulum, but the weight will always sway back and forth around the plane of motion too. The video was 7 minutes: 2 minutes before and after the total eclipse, and 3’15” during totality. I captured the frame where the laser dot crosses into the ruler and turned the frames into a short video here. Notice right in the middle of the 9 second video, the swaying seems to be interrupted. Two weeks later I duplicated the test without an eclipse and the swaying and precession was entirely regular and predictable.

I also built a slinky balance. The weight at the end of a suspended slinky was attached to a fixed lever with a red laser pointer pointing about 6′ away. I recorded a displacement when the moon and sun were overhead during the total eclipse. To quantify the displacement, I could add a sq. cm of paper to the weight amounting to about 1/1000th of the weight and that displacement was about 5 times the eclipse displacement.

The relative forces due to gravity between the Earth, Moon, and Sun are easy to calculate. The pull upward from the moon overhead is about 1/300,000th of Earth’s pull downward. The additional pull from the Sun is even less: 1/1,600,000th. There is no way this change in gravitational forces could account for the displacement I observed.

By Kyle

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