Huygens' Clocks

Matthew Bennett(1), Heidi Rockwood(2), Mike Schatz(1), and Kurt Wiesenfeld(1)

In 1665, Christiaan Huygens described a "strange sympathie" between two of his pendulum clocks. Those of us
who study nonlinear coupled oscillators are fond of quoting Huygens' observation as the first example of
spontaneous synchronization. The clocks always fell into an antiphase motion. We decided to revisit
Huygens' clocks experimentally and theoretically (we also got someone to translate the Latin for us!). In
the end, we reached a pretty satisfactory understanding of the effect. It turns out that in order to
observe the phenomenon required both great talent and a fair amount of luck.

(1) School of Physics, Georgia Tech
(2) Department of Modern Languages, Georgia Tech