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Gyroscope Model
written by Wolfgang Christian
The Gyroscope example computes and displays the dynamics of gyroscope under the influence of a gravitational torque acting on the center of mass.  The gyroscope is supported at one end and given an initial angular velocity component about its axis of symmetry and a component perpendicular to its axis of symmetry.  The numerical solution shows the motion for all initial conditions including zero initial angular momentum. The model is designed to show the cycloidal motion (precession and nutation) of the gyroscope axle when the initial angular velocity is large.   Users can very the position and radius of the spinning mass as well as the initial angle and can display the angular momentum, angular velocity, and torque vectors.  A second window shows the elevation angle of the axle and the angular momentum vector.
Units are chosen such that the total mass M and the acceleration of gravity g are one.  The rotor is an ellipsoid with a uniform mass distribution and with major axes 2*R and minor axis R/5.  The ellipsoid's moment of inertia through the center of mass is 4MR2/5 about the major axes and 26MR2/125 about the minor axis.

The Gyroscope model is a supplemental simulation for the article "It Has to Go Down a Little, in Order to Go Around" by Svilen Kostov and Daniel Hammer in The Physics Teacher 49(4), 216-219 (2011) and has been approved by the authors and The Physics Teacher editor.  The model was developed using the Easy Java Simulations (EJS) modeling tool.  It is distributed as a ready-to-run (compiled) Java archive.  Double clicking the  ejs_csm_ch17_Gyroscope.jar file will run the program if Java is installed.

Please note that this resource requires at least version 1.5 of Java.
1 source code document is available
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Rotational Dynamics
= Moment of Inertia
- Upper Undergraduate
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Interactive Simulation
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Learners
- Educators
- application/java
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Access Rights:
Free access
Program released under GNU-GPL. Narrative is copyrighted.
This material is released under a GNU General Public License Version 3 license.
Rights Holder:
Wolfgang Christian
rigid body
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created February 10, 2011 by Wolfgang Christian
Record Updated:
June 6, 2014 by Andreu Glasmann
Last Update
when Cataloged:
February 10, 2011
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M4. Energy appears in different forms and can be transformed within a system. Motion energy is associated with the speed of an object. Thermal energy is associated with the temperature of an object. Gravitational energy is associated with the height of an object above a reference point. Elastic energy is associated with the stretching or compressing of an elastic object. Chemical energy is associated with the composition of a substance. Electrical energy is associated with an electric current in a circuit. Light energy is associated with the frequency of electromagnetic waves.

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (1993 Version)


E. Energy Transformations
  • 4E (9-12) #2.  Heat energy in a material consists of the disordered motions of its atoms or molecules. In any interactions of atoms or molecules, the statistical odds are that they will end up with less order than they began?that is, with the heat energy spread out more evenly. With huge numbers of atoms and molecules, the greater disorder is almost certain.
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Record Link
AIP Format
W. Christian, Computer Program GYROSCOPE MODEL, Version 1.0 (2011), WWW Document, (
W. Christian, Computer Program GYROSCOPE MODEL, Version 1.0 (2011), <>.
APA Format
Christian, W. (2011). Gyroscope Model (Version 1.0) [Computer software]. Retrieved January 19, 2017, from
Chicago Format
Christian, Wolfgang. "Gyroscope Model." Version 1.0. (accessed 19 January 2017).
MLA Format
Christian, Wolfgang. Gyroscope Model. Vers. 1.0. Computer software. 2011. Java 1.5. 19 Jan. 2017 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Wolfgang Christian", Title = {Gyroscope Model}, Month = {February}, Year = {2011} }
Refer Export Format

%A Wolfgang Christian
%T Gyroscope Model
%D February 10, 2011
%O 1.0
%O application/java

EndNote Export Format

%0 Computer Program
%A Christian, Wolfgang
%D February 10, 2011
%T Gyroscope Model
%7 1.0
%8 February 10, 2011

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Gyroscope Model:

Is Based On Easy Java Simulations Modeling and Authoring Tool

The Easy Java Simulations Modeling and Authoring Tool is needed to explore the computational model used in the Gyroscope Model.

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