Have you ever played with a gyroscope? They’re pretty fascinating little gadgets. Gyroscopes can do things that we don’t see in any other objects. Here’s a video showing some kids doing tricks with their gyroscope. See if you can spot what it is that seems so strange about gyroscopes.
Chillaxed? Me too. Loved that swanky bossa nova music.
What does a gyroscope do that a regular toy top can’t? Did you see the gyroscope defying gravity by floating in mid air horizontally as it spun on a base? That’s what makes a gyroscope so special. This gravity defying effect is called precession. Here is a video by YouTuber, adambarito. It is also especially soothing and features some splendid sideburns and snarky ‘tude:
(He’s a growing boy. Very hungry.)
You will see a lot of bicycle wheels during demonstrations of gyroscopic effects. Surprisingly, the gyroscopic effect is not the reason that we are able to stay upright on our bikes when we ride them. Dr. Hugh Hunt has a web page describing his experiment to find out if the gyroscopic effect is responsible for keeping bikes upright. Go check it out.
This positively soporific video introduces you to some of the physics involved in the otherwise unusual behavior of the gyroscope.
As you saw there gyroscopes are often used in aviation for stability.
Helicopters, unlike bicycles, are heavily influenced by the gyroscopic effect. Helicopters have huge gyroscopes in the form of their rotors spinning on them and must account for the gyroscopic effect when maneuvering. Smarter Every Day has this awesome video explaining why navigating helicopters can be so tricky. As you will see, the gyroscopic effect doesn’t always make intuitive sense.
I’m awake and 90 degrees out of phase now! It was great the way they got their bike wheel up to speed by holding it up to the back wheel of their bike as they cranked the pedal.
Finally, if it is extreme, cutting-edge gyroscoping you crave to get you going and alert, program and sync up your flying gyroscopes like the folks from University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP lab: