Settled Science: Going Round in Circles

Settled Science - Going Round in Circles

Settled Science tells us a gyroscopes is based on “the principles of angular momentum”.

A gyroscope is a device for measuring or maintaining orientation, based on the principles of angular momentum.

Settled Science also tells us that “angular momentum” is “a measure of the amount of rotation an object has” and that a “gyroscope remains upright while spinning due to its angular momentum”.

In physics, angular momentum, moment of momentum, or rotational momentum is a measure of the amount of rotation an object has, taking into account its mass, shape and speed.
Angular momentum in classical mechanics

Combining these great gleaming gems of Settled Science we arrive at the startling conclusion that a gyroscope remains upright whilst spinning because its spinning.

Evidently, their understanding hasn’t advanced beyond reading the instructions printed on the box.

Settled Science attempts to hide this lack of understanding under a mountain of maths.

Angular momentum simplified using the center of mass

The 126,000 videos on about gyroscopes suggest this mountain of maths is just another pile of unconvincing mainstream waffle that spreads confusion rather than clarity.

It’s an old political trick: “If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em.” – Harry S Truman

Youtube - Gyroscope

Tragically, many of these videos explore the unexplained mysteries of gyroscopes before they retreat [in defeat] to the safety of regurgitated Settled Science in the vain hope that [somehow] the Settled Science will now sound convincing.

If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed – Adolf Hitler

Dynamic Aeroelasticity provides a mechanism that clears away this mainstream miasma.

Conceptually, a gyroscope gains stability and lift by buffeting against the surrounding air rather like a water skier gains stability and lift by buffeting against the surface of water.

Gyroscope support

Although the density and viscosity of air is low the dynamic effects become larger with speed.

Anyone who has driven a car in a cross-wind [or with the windows down or with the top down] will understand that wind buffeting can be dangerous – especially at high speed.

Car Window - small animation

Anyone who has experienced sky-diving in a vertical wind tunnel knows that being buffeted by 110 mph air can be very exhilarating and that its “amazingly simple” to maintain basic control.

Vertical Wind Tunnel

The same principles of Dynamic Aeroelasticity apply to a gyroscope spinning in air.

Spinning Gyroscope - small

The outer edge of the spinning disk in [for example] a 53 mm precision gyroscope spun up to 12,000 revolutions per minute [by an electric motor] reaches a speed of 33.30 metres per second [74.49 mph].

Super Precision Gyroscope


Given sufficient spin a gyroscope will raise its axis above the horizontal by air skiing.

Horizontal Gyroscope animation

Here is a simple gyroscope filmed at 600 frames/sec.

The disk rotates once every 10 frames
or in 10/600 seconds, so it spins at 60 Hz or 3600 rpm.

It precesses once in 1400 frames
or in 1400/600 = 2.3 seconds so it precesses at 0.43 Hz or 26 rpm.

The mass of the brass disk is 108 grams, and its diameter is 56 mm.

The left end is supported by a length of string.
The axis is slightly above the horizontal since the disk is spinning so fast.
It drops below the horizontal as it slows down.

The other end bobs up and down rapidly due to nutation.

The string swings out from the vertical to provide a centripetal force on the gyro since the gyro rotates slowly in a circular path about the vertical axis.

You can watch it for as long as you like, and it won’t fall down. That is simply amazing.
It looks like a magic trick with a hidden spider thread holding up the other end.

Spinning Tops, Gyroscopes & Rattlebacks
Rod Cross – Feb 2014 – School of Physics – University of Sydney

In the above example the fully spun-up gyroscope maintains an “angle of attack” of about 6 degrees [above the horizontal] to achieve the lift [via air skiing] necessary to counteract gravity.

Spinning Horizontal Gyroscope - small

The air skiing effect can be observed by using a gyroscope with “springy spokes”.

Gyroscope with springy spokes

Engineer Through the Looking-Glass – Lecture IV – The Jabberwock – Eric Laithwaite

Intriguingly, the aerofoil design for fixed-wing aircraft frequently incorporates a 6 degree “angle of attack” for steady, level flight.

The lift on an airfoil is primarily the result of its angle of attack and shape.

When oriented at a suitable angle, the airfoil deflects the oncoming air, resulting in a force on the airfoil in the direction opposite to the deflection.

Stall Formation

The “angle of attack” of a spinning gyroscope determines the balance between lift [nutation] and rotation [precession].

The axis is slightly above the horizontal since the disk is spinning so fast.
It drops below the horizontal as it slows down.

The other end bobs up and down rapidly due to nutation.

Spinning Tops, Gyroscopes & Rattlebacks
Rod Cross – Feb 2014 – School of Physics – University of Sydney
See also:


Engineer Through the Looking-Glass – Lecture IV – The Jabberwock – Eric Laithwaite

The bottom line is that a rapidly spinning gyroscope gains sufficient traction [because air is slightly viscous] to drive precession and nutation [like the Magnus Effect but with added stalling].

Magnus effect

If a spinning gyroscope [with a horizontal axis] is given a manual push [“push it forward” in the linked video] then the Magnus Effect kicks-in until the additional energy is dissipated.

The video [linked to below] provides the independent observer with an opportunity to review the credibility of the Settled Science and the physics deployed to explain why a gyroscope “feels lighter without actually getting lighter”.

Anti-Gravity Wheel Explained

Hopefully, with this basic understanding of Dynamic Aeroelasticity and the Magnus Effect you will appreciate why the mainstream really Must Try Harder!

Gallery | This entry was posted in Fluid Mechanics, Inventions and Deceptions, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Settled Science: Going Round in Circles

  1. gymnosperm says:

    Beautiful stuff. Please, keep it going…

  2. kuhnkat says:

    You might be interested in this explanation:

  3. mkelly says:

    Oooo. AAAA. great stuff.

  4. Except the aeroelasticity explanation seems problematical if one does the experiment in a vacuum ? Obviously I have to get hold of a gyroscope and do some experimentation. Assuming that orbiting satellites have gyroscopes on board.

    • malagabay says:

      Weightless + Air: The traditional toy gyroscope design works on-board the ISS.
      Weightless + No Air: The gyroscope design seems to change to a [London Moment] “spherical rotating mass” with “suspension electronics”.

      Seeing how a traditional toy gyroscope performs in a vacuum jar would be very interesting.

      In the weightless environment of the space shuttle, a spinning toy gyroscope was recorded on videotape. The gyro spun around an axis that kept pointing toward the same distant star. Even when an astronaut pushed on the gyroscope, it stubbornly maintained the orientation of its axis as it flew across the cabin. In the absence of twisting forces, a gyroscope ‘s axis will always point in whatever direction it was pointing when you started it spinning.
      If you try this experiment on earth, you will discover something quite different: if you place a spinning gyroscope with its axle horizontal and with one end of the axle on a small stand, the axle of the gyro will not continue to point in the same direction, but will move around in a horizontal circle.
      The difference between your experiment on earth and the experiment aboard the space shuttle is that your gyroscope is subjected to a twist by a pair of forces: gravity pulling down on the gyroscope and the small stand pushing up on it. A pencil placed in this position would respond to this pair of twisting forces by crashing to the floor. But the axis of a spinning gyroscope responds to the twisting pair of upward-downward forces by moving sideways around in a circle. The circling motion of the gyroscope axle is called precession.

      A London moment gyroscope relies on the quantum-mechanical phenomenon, whereby a spinning superconductor generates a magnetic field whose axis lines up exactly with the spin axis of the gyroscopic rotor. A magnetometer determines the orientation of the generated field, which is interpolated to determine the axis of rotation. Gyroscopes of this type can be extremely accurate and stable. For example, those used in the Gravity Probe B experiment measured changes in gyroscope spin axis orientation to better than 0.5 milliarcseconds (1.4×10−7 degrees) over a one-year period.[35] This is equivalent to an angular separation the width of a human hair viewed from 32 kilometers (20 mi) away.[36]

      The GP-B gyro consists of a nearly-perfect spherical rotating mass made of fused quartz, which provides a dielectric support for a thin layer of niobium superconducting material. To eliminate friction found in conventional bearings, the rotor assembly is centered by the electric field from six electrodes. After the initial spin-up by a jet of helium which brings the rotor to 4,000 RPM, the polished gyroscope housing is evacuated to an ultra-high vacuum to further reduce drag on the rotor. Provided the suspension electronics remain powered, the extreme rotational symmetry, lack of friction, and low drag will allow the angular momentum of the rotor to keep it spinning for about 15,000 years.

  5. “and the small stand pushing up on it”

    No it’s not. The small stand is not pushing at all, but the gyroscope that is pushing onto the support.


  6. Remove the support and what would the gyroscope do ?

    • malagabay says:

      My last comment referenced [as far as I know] mainstream sources with mainstream explanations.
      Probably best to focus on what they [or their cameras] observed rather than their interpretations.

  7. Pingback: Couette Flow 3: Turbulence | MalagaBay

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