# College Physics

Science and Technology## Gyroscopic Effects: Vector Aspects of Angular Momentum

Angular momentum is a vector and, therefore, *has direction as well as magnitude*. Torque affects both the direction and the magnitude of angular momentum. What is the direction of the angular momentum of a rotating object like the disk in [link]? The figure shows the right-hand rule used to find the direction of both angular momentum and angular velocity. Both $\mathbf{\text{L}}$ and $\mathbf{\text{\omega}}$ are vectors—each has direction and magnitude. Both can be represented by arrows. The right-hand rule defines both to be perpendicular to the plane of rotation in the direction shown. Because angular momentum is related to angular velocity by $\mathbf{\text{L}}=I\mathbf{\text{\omega}}$, the direction of $\mathbf{\text{L}}$ is the same as the direction of $\mathbf{\text{\omega}}$. Notice in the figure that both point along the axis of rotation.

Now, recall that torque changes angular momentum as expressed by

This equation means that the direction of $\text{\Delta}\mathbf{\text{L}}$ is the same as the direction of the torque $\mathbf{\text{\tau}}$ that creates it. This result is illustrated in [link], which shows the direction of torque and the angular momentum it creates.

Let us now consider a bicycle wheel with a couple of handles attached to it, as shown in [link]. (This device is popular in demonstrations among physicists, because it does unexpected things.) With the wheel rotating as shown, its angular momentum is to the woman's left. Suppose the person holding the wheel tries to rotate it as in the figure. Her natural expectation is that the wheel will rotate in the direction she pushes it—but what happens is quite different. The forces exerted create a torque that is horizontal toward the person, as shown in [link](a). This torque creates a change in angular momentum $\mathbf{\text{L}}$ in the same direction, perpendicular to the original angular momentum $\mathbf{\text{L}}$, thus changing the direction of $\mathbf{\text{L}}$ but not the magnitude of $\mathbf{\text{L}}$. [link] shows how $\text{\Delta}\mathbf{\text{L}}$ and $\mathbf{\text{L}}$ add, giving a new angular momentum with direction that is inclined more toward the person than before. The axis of the wheel has thus moved *perpendicular to the forces exerted on it*, instead of in the expected direction.

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 $\mathbf{\text{L}}$. If the gyroscope is *not* spinning, it acquires angular momentum in the direction of the torque ($\mathbf{\text{L}}=\text{\Delta}\mathbf{\text{L}}$), 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.

# Section Summary

- Torque is perpendicular to the plane formed by $r$ and $\mathbf{\text{F}}$ and is the direction your right thumb would point if you curled the fingers of your right hand in the direction of $\mathbf{\text{F}}$. 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 $\mathbf{\text{L}}$. If the gyroscope is not spinning, it acquires angular momentum in the direction of the torque ($\mathbf{\text{L}}=\text{\Delta}\mathbf{\text{L}}$), 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.

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?

# 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?

(a) $5\text{.}\text{64}\times {\text{10}}^{\text{33}}\phantom{\rule{0.25em}{0ex}}\text{kg}\cdot {\text{m}}^{2}\text{/s}$

(b) $1\text{.}\text{39}\times {\text{10}}^{\text{22}}\phantom{\rule{0.25em}{0ex}}\text{N}\cdot \text{m}$

(c) $2\text{.}\text{17}\times {\text{10}}^{\text{15}}\phantom{\rule{0.25em}{0ex}}\text{N}$

- College Physics
- Preface
- Introduction: The Nature of Science and Physics
- Kinematics
- Introduction to One-Dimensional Kinematics
- Displacement
- Vectors, Scalars, and Coordinate Systems
- Time, Velocity, and Speed
- Acceleration
- Motion Equations for Constant Acceleration in One Dimension
- Problem-Solving Basics for One-Dimensional Kinematics
- Falling Objects
- Graphical Analysis of One-Dimensional Motion

- Two-Dimensional Kinematics
- Dynamics: Force and Newton's Laws of Motion
- Introduction to Dynamics: Newton’s Laws of Motion
- Development of Force Concept
- Newton’s First Law of Motion: Inertia
- Newton’s Second Law of Motion: Concept of a System
- Newton’s Third Law of Motion: Symmetry in Forces
- Normal, Tension, and Other Examples of Forces
- Problem-Solving Strategies
- Further Applications of Newton’s Laws of Motion
- Extended Topic: The Four Basic Forces—An Introduction

- Further Applications of Newton's Laws: Friction, Drag, and Elasticity
- Uniform Circular Motion and Gravitation
- Work, Energy, and Energy Resources
- Linear Momentum and Collisions
- Statics and Torque
- Rotational Motion and Angular Momentum
- Introduction to Rotational Motion and Angular Momentum
- Angular Acceleration
- Kinematics of Rotational Motion
- Dynamics of Rotational Motion: Rotational Inertia
- Rotational Kinetic Energy: Work and Energy Revisited
- Angular Momentum and Its Conservation
- Collisions of Extended Bodies in Two Dimensions
- Gyroscopic Effects: Vector Aspects of Angular Momentum

- Fluid Statics
- Fluid Dynamics and Its Biological and Medical Applications
- Introduction to Fluid Dynamics and Its Biological and Medical Applications
- Flow Rate and Its Relation to Velocity
- Bernoulli’s Equation
- The Most General Applications of Bernoulli’s Equation
- Viscosity and Laminar Flow; Poiseuille’s Law
- The Onset of Turbulence
- Motion of an Object in a Viscous Fluid
- Molecular Transport Phenomena: Diffusion, Osmosis, and Related Processes

- Temperature, Kinetic Theory, and the Gas Laws
- Heat and Heat Transfer Methods
- Thermodynamics
- Introduction to Thermodynamics
- The First Law of Thermodynamics
- The First Law of Thermodynamics and Some Simple Processes
- Introduction to the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Heat Engines and Their Efficiency
- Carnot’s Perfect Heat Engine: The Second Law of Thermodynamics Restated
- Applications of Thermodynamics: Heat Pumps and Refrigerators
- Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Disorder and the Unavailability of Energy
- Statistical Interpretation of Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: The Underlying Explanation

- Oscillatory Motion and Waves
- Introduction to Oscillatory Motion and Waves
- Hooke’s Law: Stress and Strain Revisited
- Period and Frequency in Oscillations
- Simple Harmonic Motion: A Special Periodic Motion
- The Simple Pendulum
- Energy and the Simple Harmonic Oscillator
- Uniform Circular Motion and Simple Harmonic Motion
- Damped Harmonic Motion
- Forced Oscillations and Resonance
- Waves
- Superposition and Interference
- Energy in Waves: Intensity

- Physics of Hearing
- Electric Charge and Electric Field
- Introduction to Electric Charge and Electric Field
- Static Electricity and Charge: Conservation of Charge
- Conductors and Insulators
- Coulomb’s Law
- Electric Field: Concept of a Field Revisited
- Electric Field Lines: Multiple Charges
- Electric Forces in Biology
- Conductors and Electric Fields in Static Equilibrium
- Applications of Electrostatics

- Electric Potential and Electric Field
- Electric Current, Resistance, and Ohm's Law
- Circuits, Bioelectricity, and DC Instruments
- Magnetism
- Introduction to Magnetism
- Magnets
- Ferromagnets and Electromagnets
- Magnetic Fields and Magnetic Field Lines
- Magnetic Field Strength: Force on a Moving Charge in a Magnetic Field
- Force on a Moving Charge in a Magnetic Field: Examples and Applications
- The Hall Effect
- Magnetic Force on a Current-Carrying Conductor
- Torque on a Current Loop: Motors and Meters
- Magnetic Fields Produced by Currents: Ampere’s Law
- Magnetic Force between Two Parallel Conductors
- More Applications of Magnetism

- Electromagnetic Induction, AC Circuits, and Electrical Technologies
- Introduction to Electromagnetic Induction, AC Circuits and Electrical Technologies
- Induced Emf and Magnetic Flux
- Faraday’s Law of Induction: Lenz’s Law
- Motional Emf
- Eddy Currents and Magnetic Damping
- Electric Generators
- Back Emf
- Transformers
- Electrical Safety: Systems and Devices
- Inductance
- RL Circuits
- Reactance, Inductive and Capacitive
- RLC Series AC Circuits

- Electromagnetic Waves
- Geometric Optics
- Vision and Optical Instruments
- Wave Optics
- Introduction to Wave Optics
- The Wave Aspect of Light: Interference
- Huygens's Principle: Diffraction
- Young’s Double Slit Experiment
- Multiple Slit Diffraction
- Single Slit Diffraction
- Limits of Resolution: The Rayleigh Criterion
- Thin Film Interference
- Polarization
- *Extended Topic* Microscopy Enhanced by the Wave Characteristics of Light

- Special Relativity
- Introduction to Quantum Physics
- Atomic Physics
- Introduction to Atomic Physics
- Discovery of the Atom
- Discovery of the Parts of the Atom: Electrons and Nuclei
- Bohr’s Theory of the Hydrogen Atom
- X Rays: Atomic Origins and Applications
- Applications of Atomic Excitations and De-Excitations
- The Wave Nature of Matter Causes Quantization
- Patterns in Spectra Reveal More Quantization
- Quantum Numbers and Rules
- The Pauli Exclusion Principle

- Radioactivity and Nuclear Physics
- Medical Applications of Nuclear Physics
- Particle Physics
- Frontiers of Physics
- Atomic Masses
- Selected Radioactive Isotopes
- Useful Information
- Glossary of Key Symbols and Notation