Science Sundays: The Science of Spinning

BAKERSFIELD, California (KERO) – If you’ve ever been in an office chair, you know that it can be hard to resist the urge to turn around! In this edition of Science Sunday we’ll give you an excuse to turn your chair around and, in addition to making you a little dizzy, we’ll teach you a little more about the science behind spinning.

Necessary items:

  • An office chair
  • Two small dumbbells or other light weights


Sit on a chair with a weight on each arm with your arms outstretched and rotating. While you’re spinning, pull your arms to your body and notice the change!

How it works:

You will notice that you start spinning faster as you enter your arms! This is because of something called Conservation of angular momentum. The conservation of angular momentum is a little difficult to define. Basically, it says that something that is spinning wants to keep spinning, with the same number of spins. The easiest way to understand this is to do a little math!

The formula for conserving angular momentum is M x V x R, where M is tableor if something is heavy, it is V speedor how something is rotating, and it’s R radius, that is, the extent to which something is rotating. To say that it is an angular momentum preserved that is, the value of the angular moments does not change unless it is caused by an external force.

Use a simple example and say that each of these values ​​is set to 2.

So (M x V x R) (2 x 2 x 2) = 8.

Now, let’s reduce it radius 1st. So if nothing else changes (we have 2 x 2 x 1) = 4

That can’t be right, it’s just an angular momentum preserved and cannot be changed, so it must equal 8. That means another number, yes table or speed it has to be changed, and since the object cannot be heavier, it has speed must be increased!

So ours speed It is doubled to 4, making the equation (2 x 4 x 1) = 8

We reduce it to our demonstration radius bringing our arms close to our body, and consequently ours speedor how fast we are spinning, faster!

Real world applications:

Athletes take advantage of the conservation of angular moments all the time! This is especially true for Olympic sports such as gymnastics, figure skating and scuba diving. These athletes need to be able to rotate their body quickly and still be able to land safely on the target. If you see them, they almost always tuck their arms in to make them turn faster, and they extend their arms to slow down and land.

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