Introduction: Chaos-Pendulum

About: Holistically fascinated with the world.... meet me in the labyrinth....

Having Kids is really fun,

but sometimes a bit stressful, because they always have questions that you really like to answer and you usually also have other things to do that require a bit of your concentration.

Having lots of colleagues is fun – sometimes, sort of –

but often a bit stressful, because they tend to occupy you with often tedious questions, while you are supposed to concentrate on other important matters.

Sometimes it is helpful to stop them all for a short moment, to give them the time to gather their thoughts, to condense all the things they were going to swamp you with into a single, short essence of a question, that you can reply to in an efficient and concise manner:

- Yes

- No

- Maybe

- I have no idea

A very simple tool to implement this timesaving solution is the:

Chaos Pendulum!

Using this magnificent tool, if a person approaches you, you can simply hold up your hand, ask them to “Ask the pendulum first!”, which will effectively give them a few seconds to meditate and collect themselves.

Meditation is also a great way to reduce anxiety and tension, so you effectively and proactively improve their emotional stability and mental acuity!

Since the pendulum is controlled by chaos theory, governed by quantum mechanics, it logically follows that the result is correct and you don’t even have to give a verbal reply, but can concentrate instead on the real problems you have!

Once you have explained the causalities and universal connections governing our daily lives in relation to the underlying quantum reality, the pendulum will save you and the people attempting to interact with you immense amounts of time and energy.

So, how to build this incredible tool?


All you need is :


4 magnets for the anticipated number of answers

1 magnet as the pointer

Some string

A non-magnetic supportive structure (gallows)

A non-magnetic base


Well, that depends….

A drill plus a bit to drill holes with.

Possibly some glue, wire, string, a hammer, some nails….

Step 1: The General Setup:

1 - In the example shown here, I use 4 Magnets for the possible 4 answers. If you should come up with more answers, you will have to increase the number of magnets accordingly.

2 - One magnet is used as the marker for the answer deduced by chaos theory. I use two magnets in this example in order to provide additional attractive force to the magnets, as well as supplying additional mass to increase the momentum of the pendulum. You are, of course, free to modify the pendulum in any fashion you please, with numerous magnets, a pointy pointer to point out the answer in a more explicit way, add lead weights, or feathers to prolong or slow the movement – the possibilities are endless!

3 – The string used to suspend the pendulum in this case is a simple bit of nylon, because I happened to have it lying around on my desk at the time. Of course, you can use a bit of yarn, or a steel chain, depending on the materials available and the size of your pendulum.

4 – A pendulum needs a point from which it is suspended from or anchored at. In my case the construct is quite small, so I decided to simply use a couple of wooden skewers – found on my desk. I used the wood skewers (2 mm diameter) instead of a wire coat hanger – not from my desk – since they are flexible enough to force into an arch, long enough to allow some amplitude for the pendulum oscillations and mainly because, opposed to the coat hanger, they are not ferromagnetic. If you decide to use a wire coat hanger, make sure it is not ferromagnetic, or at least make sure that the base of one end – if you make a simple gallows – or both bases - if you make an arch – or all three bases - if you make a tripod - and so on, is/are far enough outside the swing-radius of the pendulum to avoid collisions, because it is quite tedious, if the pendulum sticks to the support as soon as it gets close. It also tends to frustrate the user, if the quantum-mechanical solution-finding process is constantly aborted by external influences, such as someone/something catching the pendulum before a solution is provided.

5 – The base of the pendulum should be chosen such that it least influences the chaotic processes determining the outcome. In my case it was a scrap bit of wood lying around – beneath my desk. If you only want to provide two answers, you could get away with a linear strip to mount the magnets on, else a two-dimensional area is needed – without gravity the arrangement could be done in a sphere around the anchor of the pendulum, though the question arises, how the anchor could be fixed without impairing the free rotation of the pendulum around it and – for that matter – how you could call it a pendulum in the first place without the force of gravity to act upon the pendulum set into motion, anyway….

Step 2: The Things to Consider:

A couple of general considerations:

Energy matters, size matters, mass matters, air density matters….

To get the best answers, Neodym magnets are best, because they have the highest field strengths.

Though it adds some additional influences to the pendulum movements, to make it simple, it is best to keep all magnets aligned in the same direction, i.e. the pendulum is attracted to the magnets representing the answers.

If you have two answers, the center of the pendulum should be in the middle above the two answers, if you have multiple answers, these should be arranged in a circle around the center of the pendulum to provide seeming equal probability to each.

To make things easier to arrange, the answer-magnets should all have the same field strength – in my case with two pairs of different magnets, I had to spend some time to figure the relative strengths to arrange them correctly.

For the pendulum it seems best to have a really strong magnet, combined with a relatively high mass to allow for a maximum of oscillations before a result is found, without overdoing the mass, of course.

The length of the string supporting the pendulum should be short enough, so that the pendulum doesn’t crash into the ground – of course. At the same time the it needs to be long enough to allow the pendulum to settle onto one exact answer and avoid ending up with “null” and hanging straight down – causing frustrations for the questioner. Drilling a hole in the ceiling to insert a hook as support for your pendulum will give you a large amplitude, with possibly some additional aesthetic features, but may also possibly require an excessive amount of time until the solution is provided, in turn again causing unnecessary frustration on behalf of the questioner.

At normal atmospheric pressure the pendulum motion is quite rapid, in comparison to placing it under water, where some questioners may drown before an answer is found - a vacuum presenting no friction, but causing also problems for the questioner.

Effectively, it seems that the most satisfying result for the questioner results from a careful iteration of the design until the components provide an initial seemingly classical deterministic pendulum motion that is relatively suddenly transformed into an eerily randomly magnetically redirected movement, that lasts for a long time, before a single definite answer is revealed.

Step 3: The Real World Implementation:

OK, let’s get things done….

The Base:

To start, I decided on the base – the piece of scrap wood, from beneath my desk – and dimensioned things from there on up.

I have a bunch of different magnets from computer hard drives, toys, packaging and even bought ones stuck to my desk drawer.

The Answer-Magnets:

For the answers I took four almost identical ones and tested the relative strengths to figure out how to best place them.

The Pendulum:

The pendulum, I wanted to make it as close to a lead sinker as possible, so I decided on magnets with holes to put a pointer through – also stuck on my desk drawer. One magnet was a bit too light, while the movements with two magnets were much more satisfying.

The holes in the magnets are with 2,5 mm just large enough to put a piece of a wooden skewer through – the ones I have lying around on my desk – toothpicks are much too thin.

To keep the magnets from sliding off I drilled a hole in the skewer and put part of a steel pin through it, then rolled a few windings of copper wire around the end of the skewer, because it had split anyway and tied that around the pin. An 8 cm length for the skewer was the most pleasing to my eyes, and feels nice and solid.

To keep the string length adjustable until the final settings, I ran it from the top of the skewer-piece, fixed there with a few windings of copper wire and a spit of glue, through the magnet holes, around the bottom pin and up again through the holes, resulting in a satisfying friction fix that could still easily be adjusted.

The top I left with about 30 cm to allow some long swinging.

The Support/Gallows:


My first try at a supporting structure for the pendulum was a roughly 40 cm piece of coat hanger wire, that I stuck into a hole drilled into the edge of my happy piece of wood and bent round at the top, so that the pendulum string could be tied to its end. I glued two magnets to the wood, to see how the pendulum would swing. Well, the answer is that it didn’t – not once! The wire, though stiff to the touch, is far too flexible in response to the relative attraction of the magnets. Either the spacing is too far for the magnets to end up in congruent orientation, or the magnets connect with high impact. As the third alternative the magnets got stuck to the wire without completing even a single oscillation.

The second try was the piece of wire bent round to form a bow and stuck into a newly drilled second hole in my base. The resulting swings of the pendulum were actual swings, but even slight deviations from a deterministic oscillation resulted in the frustrating behavior of the magnets sticking to the wire - again. As this behavior was certainly not going to result in any acceptable results, it was decided to turn to non-magnetic materials and no embarassing pictures are included here.

The final construct:

The third try: As it was already getting late, I decided on the easy path and drew a center line across my still trusting piece of wood and drilled a third hole into it to oppose the first. I took two of the abundantly available wood skewers from my desk and stuck their dull ends into the opposing holes - careful, don’t poke your eyes out!

Then I tied the two Skewer’s pointed ends together to form the anchor of the pendulum above the center of the magnets, i.e. above the middle of the line connecting the two posts.
There I also connected the string of the pendulum, to swing with the theoretical resting point at the geometrical center of the construct, using once again a bit of copper wire to bind the components and a final drop of glue to set thing tight.

The Answer-Magnets:

I halved the distance between the posts and glued two of the identical magnets on the perpendicular at the center, at identical distances away from the middle line.

The other two identical magnets I stuck to the now seemingly less happy wood on the middle line between the two skewers at equal distances from the middle at a distance where their field strength is equal to that of the other two weaker magnets – the result is a rhomboid.

To optimize the pendulum swing, the length of the string was adjusted by drawing it short at the bottom of the pendulum and then letting it swing free until the magnetic pull had slowly drawn the pendulum down against the string's friction hold to a position, where an initial deterministic swing would quickly be redirected into a long series of chaotic movements, until the pendulum would come to a jittering rest pointed strongly at exactly one of the “answer” magnets.

To facilitate the interpretation of the four answers and to keep people from changing the resulting answer into a preferred answer, the magnets were marked with symbols allowing no ambiguity, using a permanent marker:

Yes = +

No = -

Maybe = ~

I have no idea = 0

Step 4: Final Considerations

The gadget I present here is basically just a fully functional trial.

Of course, you could make a fancy 3D-printed structure where the answer-magnets are hidden in the base, or just glue a piece of cardboard onto mine to hide the magnets.

You could make it larger or smaller…….

The thus constructed Chaos Pendulum has since been widely employed to find answers, but also by colleagues simply searching for a moment of quiescence and peace.

Some simply didn’t understand the basic principle behind it. Yes? No? Maybe? WTH?….

Even the concept of magnetism seems to be associated close to magic for some.


Even if you just like to play with magnets, it’s fun to watch how the pendulum suddenly changes directions by 90 degrees and, after oscillating between two magnets, suddenly switches to a third to stay there….

This is the second try at writing an instructable, so I hope you enjoyed my ramblings, because they do reflect many of my thoughts and reasonings from the evening when I had the muse to play with magnets and the bits and pieces on my desk to put this together, but also a few reactions from my family and colleagues when I confronted them with it.

PS: My wife never lets anyone near my desk, because it is a bit disorganized since all the things from the deep and dark box beneath my desk have returned to the top since I got a new job and don't have to work in home-office anymore and because she is always worried that some of the bits lying around on it may become sentient, or form a critical mass, or worse…. – that’s why it’s in the basement. 😉

Stay fascinated!


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