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gyroscope


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A disk with a heavy rim mounted in a double gimbal so that its axis can adopt any orientation in space. When the disk is set spinning the whole contrivance has two useful properties: (1) Gyroscopic inertia, i.e. the direction of the axis of spin resists change so that if the gimbals are turned the spinning disk maintains the same orientation in space. This property forms the basis of the gyrocompass and other navigational devices. (2) Precession, i.e. when a gyroscope is subjected to a torque that tends to alter the direction of its axis, the gyroscope turns about an axis at right angles both to the axis about which the torque was applied and to its main axis of spin. This is a consequence of the need to conserve angular momentum.

In the gyrostabilizer for stabilizing a ship, aircraft, or platform, three gyroscopes are kept spinning about mutually perpendicular axes so that any torque tending to alter the orientation of the whole device affects one of the gyroscopes and thereby activates a servomechanism that restores the original orientation.

Subjects: Physics.


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