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No. 33: May-Jun 1984

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Falling Masses Swerve South

In 1901, Florian Cajori had a paper published in Science with the title: "The Unexplained Southerly Deviation of Falling Bodies." Cajori reviewed the pertinent measurements that had been made prior to 1901 on falling bodies, emphasizing that the anomaly described in the title of his paper truly existed.

In a recent letter to the American Journal of Physics, A.P. French brings the record up to date. (It should be pointed out here that a slight easterly deflection of falling bodies is predicted, but that a southerly deflection should be negligible, although not zero.) In the post-1901 experiments, small southerly and northerly deflections have been detected. These should not occur for an ideal rotating sphere -- which the earth isn't. French ends his brief review by stating that the earth's gravitational field is now known well enough so that further experiments with falling objects might once-and-for-all determine the nature (and reality) of the delightful anomaly.

(French, A.P., "The Deflection of Falling Objects," American Journal of Physics, 52:199, 1984.)

From Science Frontiers #33, MAY-JUN 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss