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Suppose you have a physical pendulum. When is it possible to approximate the physical pendulum system as a point particle?

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  • $\begingroup$ You always can. Find the center of percussion of the physical pendulum. $\endgroup$ Nov 24 '15 at 19:30
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A short pendulum with a large rigid bob will run slower than expected, because the force required to rotate the bob is added to the force required to swing the bob, reducing the accelerations. As the pendulum length becomes "long" relative to the size of the bob, then this effect becomes "small" and you can better and better approximate the bob as a point.

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