“Foucault’s Pendulum – 200 years since the birth of a genius”

This year marks the 200th anniversary since the birth of the French physicist Jean Bernard Léon Foucault, who proved, with the help of the pendulum, that the Earth rotates around its axis. The Center for University Success (CRU) within the Technical University „Gh. Asachi” from Iași celebrated the event with a symposium with international participation – “Le Pendule de Foucault – 200 ans depuis la naissance d’un génie” (The Foucault Pendulum – 200 years since the birth of a genius).

Held within the project “CRU_AUF-ECO: Science and Poetry dans l’UNIVers(ité)”, supported by the University Agency of Francophonie in Central and Eastern Europe, in partnership with CRU of three universities in Iași – University “A. I. Cuza” (UAIC), University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Gr. T. Popa” (UMF), University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (USAMV), the event brought together representatives of universities in the area, which have a Foucault Pendulum: Université Le Havre Normandie, France, Technical University of Moldova, State Agricultural University of Moldova, Art University “G. Enescu” Iași, National College “V. Alecsandri” Galați, French Institute in Iași and the Center of Applied Modern Languages TUIAȘI – LINGUATEK.

The symposium aimed to praise the merits of the French physicist Léon Foucault: he determined the speed of light (1850) and demonstrated the rotational motion of the Earth with the help of its pendulum (1851). The device, capable of oscillating in any vertical plane, was first presented at the Panthéon in Paris, and a few weeks later, Foucault suspended a sphere with a weight of 28 kg, provided with a sharp tip, by the Pantheon dome, at the end of a 67 meters wire. On the floor was a layer of fine sand, on which the tip of the pendulum drew the shape of a rosette and returned to where it started after 32 hours. A complete rotation, at the latitude of 300, takes 48 hours.

In the world, there are several Foucault pendulums: in universities, science museums, planetariums. One of the most famous is in Manhattan, at the United Nations headquarters. As of November 2012, such a device exists in Romania, in Body A of the Faculty of Construction and Installations of TU „Gh. Asachi” from Iași. Made by prof. Cătălin D. Gălățanu, the system allows to visualize the precession movement on a bed of quartz sand. In February 2013, an automatic actuation system was installed to keep the pendulum in permanent swing.

Proudly pointing out that, for 7 years, TUIASI is the only institution in Iași and among the few in the world that has a Foucault Pendulum, considered rightly the main attraction of the city, the symposium organizers have prepared an extensive program dedicated to the one who invented the famous device. The symposium was opened by the representatives of CRU TUIASI Doina Mihaela Popa and Evagrina Dirtu, their greeting messages culminating in a recital with the title “The birth of a genius: Léon Foucault (1819-1868)” presented by the students of the 1st and 2nd years, from the specialties of Industrial Design and Civil Construction, Victoria Costetchii, Loredana Pelin, Sorin Spanache and Cristi Ursachi. This was followed by an impressive video conference on the topic “Au Havre la terre tourne!” (In Havre the earth turns!), supported by emeritus researcher professor Jérôme Brossard and the Master of Conferences Jean Luc Ponty of the Université du Havre Normandy, France.

Among the few institutions that have a Foucault Pendulum is the Technical University of Moldova. “Foucault’s pendulum – horloge gravitationnelle à cinématique interactive” (gravitational clock with interactive kinematics) was presented in French by Lidia Bivol, lect. within the Department of Foreign Languages, who teaches French – specialized language at the Faculty of Constructions, Geodesy and Cadastre (dean: associate professor, Dr. Livia NISTOR-LOPATENCO). She emphasized the undeniable merit of the scientist Ion Bostan, who, constantly promoting innovation in engineering, together with a team of Bachelor students, PhD students, teachers and engineers-graduates of UTM, assisted by scientists from abroad, developed an original concept of Foucault’s pendulum – the gravitational clock with interactive kinematics. It is the first project in Moldova supported financially by the European Physics Society. The concept, design, elaboration of manufacturing technologies, intermediate tests, engineering calculation, computer simulation and manufacturing of the pendulum components are one hundred percent made in UTM. The pendulum is located in the lobby of the UTM central block (latitude 47°01’45”) and can be seen as it works: due to the interactive kinematics, it indicates the rotational motion of the Earth marked by the apparent rotation of the oscillation plane with the angular velocity 10°58’31”/ hour, the geographical position of the Republic of Moldova in a fixed system of astronomical coordinates, but also the local time generated by the Earth’s rotation. Since the Foucault Pendulum is also of interest for its possible applications in detecting the influence of the relative position of the Sun and the Moon on earthquakes, a research program has been initiated at UTM using the kinematic interactive possibilities of the Pendulum in order to identify possible deviations of the oscillation plan during the lunar and solar eclipses – a phenomenon that would hypothetically answer some questions about the causes of natural cataclysms, especially earthquakes. In other words, the Foucault Pendulum at UTM is more than a sophisticated clock, it is a source of inspiration and continuous scientific creativity. A true business card of UTM and Republic of Moldova as a whole.

The participants in the symposium wanted to emphasize the imminent connection between the technical and the artistic creation, with a message in this sense coming from prof. Neculai Eugen Seghedin from TU „Gh. Asachi”, Iași. His colleague, eng. Cătălin Daniel Gălățanu, expressed his take on the topic with the speech “Eppur si muove. Foucault’s pendulum at the Faculty of Constructions and Installations of the Technical University of Iași”. An exciting presentation of Foucault’s Pendulum, with a lyrical text from Foucault to Brâncuși, was made by the teacher Vasile Ciuchină from the College “V. Alecsandri” from Galați. The program of the symposium continued with the “Music of the Spheres” by Maître de Conférences Cristian Ungureanu from the University of Arts „G. Enescu” from Iași, and “Littérature et métaphore scientifique: epistemè, technè, rhêtorikê” by CRU UAIC manager Dana Nica from the University „A. I. Cuza” from Iași, culminating with a session of discussions and conclusions on the topic.