Swinging Physics Playing on a Swing Report

The outdoor playing environment forms a very fascinating experience for physicists since it presents a first-hand understanding of the basic principles behind physics. One such playing activity of interest is playing on a trapeze. Akin to a playing ground swing, the trapeze operates under the principles of driving a simple pendulum. A trapeze and a swing are the same things; however, the former incorporates a horizontal bar that is suspended by two parallel and vertical cords.

Invented eons back before the 19th century by Leotard, the trapeze presents a center of attraction to traveling circuses. It has gained considerable popularity of late since it elicits the adrenaline rush akin to what a bungee jumper experiences when sporting. To this end, circus events “such as Cirque du Soleil, found in Disney World, and the Millennium Show are gaining more interest, attracting performers from the world over” (Christiaan, 2007). Moreover, circus schools are becoming common in the major cities around the world e.g., New York and London. In South Africa, trapeze is a sport for the affluent who “are invited to the ‘trapeze parties’” (Christiaan, 2007).

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While sporting, the performers take breathtaking moves that leave the audience agape. From swinging using the arms, swinging by the use of the lower limbs (figure 1), to performing extremely complex flips (figure 2); trapeze presents an endless list of tricks. Given all the moves a trapeze artist can perform, the forces that keep the performer on the course are similar to what drives a simple pendulum. To this end, the term ‘simple’ may be deceiving since, while it is quite simple to predict the motion of a pendulum, it is quite difficult to perform an analytical analysis.

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