The Gyroscopic Effect: Do Gyroscopes Defy Gravity?

  • May 27, 2019
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  • Physics
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The Gyroscopic Effect: Do Gyroscopes Defy Gravity?

Gyroscopes have always been fascinating objects for people. This little device, used to measure and maintain orientation based on angular momentum, seems to defy gravity.

Although gyroscopes seem like simple devices, their mechanics are actually quite complex. When the wheel/disk isn’t spinning, gyroscopes will fall over if you try to stand them up.

But how do gyroscopes seem to defy Newtonian laws if they topple over once you stand them up?

Without the disk spinning, gyroscopes are just intricate-looking ordinary objects. That, however, completely changes once you get the device spinning.

How do gyroscopes work?

This device is designed to be mounted on a base in a way that would let its spinning wheel/disk turn about its axis freely. No matter what the movement of the base is, the device can turn in any direction to keep its orientation. So, the moment you spin the gyroscope, it will seem to defy gravity as it balances itself on all kinds of surfaces while spinning about its axis to keep its orientation, no matter in which direction you move the base.

Gyroscopes were popular toys in the past, like fidget spinners. They can perform tricks that attract children and even adults. These “tricks” include their ability to get balanced on a finger or even on a string. You can hold a gyroscope up with a string from one end and it will continue to spin. It will also keep spinning if you move the device to an angle that suspends it from its stand, seemingly levitating around the stand.

Where are gyroscopes used?

Gyroscopes are used in cars, ships, airplanes, and other vehicles to maintain their orientation. These devices are kept spinning in special cases inside aircrafts in space, too, to keep an independent orientation. These cages for gyroscopes have sensors and electrical contacts that convey information to the pilot as the plane moves. This is how the pilot knows how the craft is flying and keeps track of its direction.

It’s incredible how gyroscopes have essentially shaped the world we are familiar with. Without these devices, navigation would not have been the same!

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