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This same logic explains the behavior of gyroscopes. [link] shows the two forces acting on a spinning gyroscope. The torque produced is perpendicular to the angular momentum, thus the direction of the torque is changed, but not its magnitude. The gyroscope precesses around a vertical axis, since the torque is always horizontal and perpendicular to L size 12{L} {} . If the gyroscope is not spinning, it acquires angular momentum in the direction of the torque ( L = Δ L size 12{L=ΔL} {} ), and it rotates around a horizontal axis, falling over just as we would expect.

Earth itself acts like a gigantic gyroscope. Its angular momentum is along its axis and points at Polaris, the North Star. But Earth is slowly precessing (once in about 26,000 years) due to the torque of the Sun and the Moon on its nonspherical shape.

In figure a, the gyroscope is rotating in counter clockwise direction. The weight of the gyroscope is acting downward. The supportive force is acting at the base. The line of action of the weight and supportive force are different. The torque is acting along the radius of the horizontal circular part of gyroscope. In figure b, the two vectors L and L plus delta L are shown. The vectors start from a point at the bottom of the figure and terminate at two points on a horizontal dotted circle, directed in counter clockwise direction, at the top of the figure. Another vector delta L starts from the head of vector L and terminates at the head of vector L plus delta L.
As seen in figure (a), the forces on a spinning gyroscope are its weight and the supporting force from the stand. These forces create a horizontal torque on the gyroscope, which create a change in angular momentum Δ L size 12{L} {} that is also horizontal. In figure (b), Δ L size 12{L} {} and L size 12{L} {} add to produce a new angular momentum with the same magnitude, but different direction, so that the gyroscope precesses in the direction shown instead of falling over.

Rotational kinetic energy is associated with angular momentum? Does that mean that rotational kinetic energy is a vector?

No, energy is always a scalar whether motion is involved or not. No form of energy has a direction in space and you can see that rotational kinetic energy does not depend on the direction of motion just as linear kinetic energy is independent of the direction of motion.

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Section summary

  • Torque is perpendicular to the plane formed by r size 12{r} {} and F size 12{F} {} and is the direction your right thumb would point if you curled the fingers of your right hand in the direction of F size 12{F} {} . The direction of the torque is thus the same as that of the angular momentum it produces.
  • The gyroscope precesses around a vertical axis, since the torque is always horizontal and perpendicular to L size 12{L} {} . If the gyroscope is not spinning, it acquires angular momentum in the direction of the torque ( L = Δ L size 12{L=ΔL} {} ), and it rotates about a horizontal axis, falling over just as we would expect.
  • Earth itself acts like a gigantic gyroscope. Its angular momentum is along its axis and points at Polaris, the North Star.

Conceptual questions

While driving his motorcycle at highway speed, a physics student notices that pulling back lightly on the right handlebar tips the cycle to the left and produces a left turn. Explain why this happens.

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Gyroscopes used in guidance systems to indicate directions in space must have an angular momentum that does not change in direction. Yet they are often subjected to large forces and accelerations. How can the direction of their angular momentum be constant when they are accelerated?

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Problem exercises

Integrated Concepts

The axis of Earth makes a 23.5° angle with a direction perpendicular to the plane of Earth’s orbit. As shown in [link] , this axis precesses, making one complete rotation in 25,780 y.

(a) Calculate the change in angular momentum in half this time.

(b) What is the average torque producing this change in angular momentum?

(c) If this torque were created by a single force (it is not) acting at the most effective point on the equator, what would its magnitude be?

In the figure, the Earth’s image is shown. There are two vectors inclined at an angle of twenty three point five degree to the vertical, starting from the centre of the Earth. At the heads of the two vectors there is a circular shape, directed in counter clockwise direction. An angular momentum vector, directed toward left, along its diameter, is shown. The plane of the Earth’s orbit is shown as a horizontal line through its center.
The Earth’s axis slowly precesses, always making an angle of 23.5° with the direction perpendicular to the plane of Earth’s orbit. The change in angular momentum for the two shown positions is quite large, although the magnitude L size 12{L} {} is unchanged.

(a) 5 . 64 × 10 33 kg m 2 /s size 12{5 "." "65" times "10" rSup { size 8{"33"} } `"kg" "." m rSup { size 8{2} } "/s"} {}

(b) 1 . 39 × 10 22 N m size 12{1 "." "39" times "10" rSup { size 8{"22"} } `N cdot m} {}

(c) 2 . 17 × 10 15 N size 12{2 "." "18" times "10" rSup { size 8{"15"} } `N} {}

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Questions & Answers

what is physics
faith Reply
what are the basic of physics
tree physical properties of heat
Bello Reply
tree is a type of organism that grows very tall and have a wood trunk and branches with leaves... how is that related to heat? what did you smoke man?
what are the uses of dimensional analysis
Racheal Reply
Dimensional Analysis. The study of relationships between physical quantities with the help of their dimensions and units of measurements is called dimensional analysis. We use dimensional analysis in order to convert a unit from one form to another.
meaning of OE and making of the subscript nc
ferunmi Reply
can I ask a question
kinetic functional force
Moyagabo Reply
what is a principal wave?
Haider Reply
A wave the movement of particles on rest position transferring energy from one place to another
not wave. i need to know principal wave or waves.
principle wave is a superposition of wave when two or more waves meet at a point , whose amplitude is the algebraic sum of the amplitude of the waves
kindly define principal wave not principle wave (principle of super position) if u can understand my question
what is a model?
Ella Reply
why are electros emitted only when the frequency of the incident radiation is greater than a certain value
b/c u have to know that for emission of electron need specific amount of energy which are gain by electron for emission . if incident rays have that amount of energy electron can be emitted, otherwise no way.
search photoelectric effect on Google
what is ohm's law
Pamilerin Reply
states that electric current in a given metallic conductor is directly proportional to the potential difference applied between its end, provided that the temperature of the conductor and other physical factors such as length and cross-sectional area remains constant. mathematically V=IR
A body travelling at a velocity of 30ms^-1 in a straight line is brought to rest by application of brakes. if it covers a distance of 100m during this period, find the retardation.
Pamilerin Reply
just use v^2-u^2=2as
how often does electrolyte emits?
just use +€^3.7°√π%-4¢•∆¥%
v^2-u^2=2as v=0,u=30,s=100 -30^2=2a*100 -900=200a a=-900/200 a=-4.5m/s^2
what is distribution of trade
Grace Reply
what's acceleration
Joshua Reply
The change in position of an object with respect to time
Acceleration is velocity all over time
It's not It's the change of velocity relative to time
Velocity is the change of position relative to time
acceleration it is the rate of change in velocity with time
acceleration is change in velocity per rate of time
what is ohm's law
Ohm's law is related to resistance by which volatge is the multiplication of current and resistance ( U=RI)
acceleration is the rate of change. of displacement with time.
the rate of change of velocity is called acceleration
how i don understand
Willam Reply
how do I access the Multiple Choice Questions? the button never works and the essay one doesn't either
Savannah Reply
How do you determine the magnitude of force
Peace Reply
mass × acceleration OR Work done ÷ distance
Practice Key Terms 1

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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