# A question about why gyroscopes fall slowly

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A perfectly friction-free gyroscope that is fixed with a pivot along its axis does not so much 'resist' gravity as transfer any forces that act on it to the pivot.
The torque provided by gravity is tangential to the rotation of the centre of mass of the spinning wheel. Since the direction of "tangential" is constantly changing, the net change in angular momentum over a single revolution of 2π is zero IF there is no friction. But if there is even the slightest amount of friction, there is a net gravitational torque that will cause the gyroscope axis to tilt more (which will change the direction of the angular momentum spin vector which will lead to an increase the angular momentum precession vector to compensate). And eventually the spinning wheel/frame/top will touch the ground and stop.

AM

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If the gyroscope is initially pointing at the Sun, directly overhead, and we wait six hours and it's still pointing at the Sun, which way is it pointing relative to the Earth's surface?

The gyroscope (mounted in gimbals), was named that by Foucault because it could show (scope) the rotation (gyro) of the Earth.
There is a famous incident involving the shutdown of an early SOYUZ launch in 1966 and subsequent gyro-triggered abort:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soyuz_7K-OK_No.1
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Ibix
AHaHaCiK
A perfectly friction-free gyroscope that is fixed with a pivot along its axis does not so much 'resist' gravity as transfer any forces that act on it to the pivot.

So the answer is that a truly friction-free gyroscope will no more drop than would any stationary object resting on the pivot that such a gyroscope was attached to.

The table in my room has not dropped a mm in the last week, despite gravity acting on it all the time. The same for a 'perfect gyroscope', by translating its load to the pivot, the pivot provides the reaction force that keeps the gyroscope pointing in the same direction (which might look different to your moving frame, but it remains the same), just like the floor keeps my table at the same height (in this local gravity field) where it is now.
what happens with non-perfectly friction-free gyros, How is friction make the gyros fall?

cmb
what happens with non-perfectly friction-free gyros, How is friction make the gyros fall?
If you are asking me; AFAIU a torque from the bearing shaft of a gyroscope when combined with a straight-vector force on that shaft will cause a cross-product force and the gyroscope will precess around the pivot. As the gyroscope slows down from that torque, the precession would actually speed up (if the pivot itself was friction free) or reach some 'terminal presessional rotational speed' (friction at the pivot). That 'terminal rotation speed' will be a function of the strength of the cross-product force, which diminishes as the gyroscope slows down.

i.e. if the gyroscope is spinning on a friction axis, the axis will precess horizontally around the pivot due to the downward gravitational force, and both the gyroscope and precession will gradually slow down, whilst the angle of its axis drops downwards. The faster the gyropscope spins at the start of all this slowing-down, the faster the precession rate, and the longer it will take for the axis to dip downwards.

(AFAIU)

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The faster the gyropscope spins at the start of all this slowing-down, the faster the precession rate
You should check this.

cmb
You should check this.
Yeah, not sure about that now you mention it. I was just assuming "a x b" would always be bigger, but it'd be translated back to the pivot point, so it might be the pivot point bears a higher load rather than a faster precession.

Sorry, I am not clear on the mechanics of that, happy to say I am not sure about that comment.

snorkack
Would a compass needle also resist toppling over and insist on precessing instead?
Remember, the aligned spins and orbital angular momenta of electrons confer on the compass needle an angular momentum even though the solid arrangement of iron nuclei is not rotating.