This might win the weird science video of the week award. Thirty-two metronomes placed on a suspended board are set in motion at different times; the ticking chaos could drive you crazy, but stick with it because, like magic, the metronomes gradually begin to tick in time, sounding like soldiers marching in step.
The weirdest part? Try this on a static surface and they'll never tick together.
You'd think the opposite would be the case, but the experiment illustrates the concept of "coupling." Each of the metronomes is creating energy with its motion; placed on the board, the energy from one metronome affects the energy and motion of those around it, until they all gradually become synchronous.
The board is the key. Because it's not a stable surface, it acts as the energetic intermediary between all the metronomes, gradually forcing these little pendulums into line, or to be coupled.
It's more than just a cool party trick. Coupling oscillators illustrate math and physics that help us understand the transfer of sound and thermal conductivity.
To be perfectly honest, once I started watching, all the science behind it got pushed to the back of my brain as I started to single out various metronomes that were straggling behind. It was surprisingly engaging to watch it all unfold, and a profound relief when they delivered what was promised — their unlikely synchronicity.
If they hadn't it's quite likely I wouldn't have been able to sleep for weeks. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock…