American Journal of Physics March 2020March 2020 Issue,

Volume 88, No. 3


Misconceptions about gyroscopic stabilization

A spinning gyroscope resists small torques in directions perpendicular to its axis, that is, the angular orientation of a body rigidly attached to a gyroscope is stable against rotation around certain axes. Since the angular orientation of a body is described by three angles (e.g., Euler angles), one might conclude that it is possible to stabilize the orientation of an object against rotation using a combination of three gyroscopes spinning around non-collinear axes. We perform experiments under conditions of weightlessness to demonstrate that systems of coupled gyroscopes cannot arrest the angular orientation of free-floating objects, in contradiction to a widespread myth about gyroscopic stabilization, based on the above arguments.



2020 AAPT Award Citations at the Winter Meeting, Orlando, Florida. DOI: 10.1119/10.0000725


Misconceptions about gyroscopic stabilization by Patric Müller, Achim Sack and Thorsten Pöschel. DOI: 10.1119/10.0000517

Key biology you should have learned in physics class: Using ideal-gas mixtures to understand biomolecular machines by Daniel M. Zuckerman. DOI: 10.1119/10.0000634

Untold secrets of the slowly charging capacitor by John A. Milsom. DOI: 10.1119/10.0000635

Uranium fission and plutonium production in the undergraduate lab by Jos van Willigen, Casper Loman, Pjotr Thibaudier, David B. R. A. Fokkema and Tom W. Hijmans. DOI: American Journal of Physics 88, 200 (2020);

Galilei proposed the principle of relativity, but not the “Galilean transformation” by K. M. Browne. DOI: 10.1119/10.0000303

Developing peer instruction questions for quantitative problems for an upper-division astronomy course by Colin S. Wallace. DOI: 10.1119/10.0000504

Image-charge effects on an electrostatic pendulum in mechanical equilibrium by D. S. Goodman, R. D. Fischetti, A. Hodges and H. A. Tekalp. DOI: 10.1119/10.0000302

Dynamics of a round object moving along curved surfaces with friction by Gabriel M. Mejía, Jose M. Betancourt, Christian D. Forero, Nicolas Avilán, F. J. Rodríguez, L. Quiroga and Neil F. Johnson. DOI: 10.1119/10.0000310

Assessing randomness with the aid of quantum state measurement by Mathew R. Coleman, Kaylin G. Ingalls, John T. Kavulich, Sawyer J. Kemmerly, Nicolas C. Salinas, Efrain Venegas Ramirez and Maximilian Schlosshauer. DOI: 10.1119/10.0000383

Optical rotation of white light by Jason Anderson, Catherine Gillen, Jacqueline Wright, Charles S. Adams and Ifan G. Hughes. DOI: 10.1119/10.0000390


Photons: The History and Mental Models of Light. Klaus Hentschel. 244 pp. Springer International Publishing, 2018. Price: $78.23 (hardcover). ISBN 978-3-319-95251. (Eugene Hecht, Reviewer.) . DOI: 10.1119/10.0000611


American Journal of Physics 88, 256 (2020);

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