Shown above is one of a series of experiments devised to investigate metastability - the failure of a system, which is normaly bi-stable, to settle in either state.
In this case the system is a four section 'inverted pendulum' which is similar to a chain with four links. The lower end of the chain is fixed to a loudspeaker which is being driven at frequencies in the order of 100Hz. The chain stands almost upright in this state but collapses immediately if the vibration is halted.
This phenomenon has analogues in commonly used electronic circuits where reliablity is a concern - hence the worry!
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Last modified: 2004 May 25th.