The rise and fall of spinning tops
Citation: Am. J. Phys. 81, 280 (2013); doi: 10.1119/1.4776195 View online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4776195 View Table of Contents: http://ajp.aapt.org/resource/1/AJPIAS/v81/i4 Published by the American Association of Physics Teachers
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The rise and fall of spinning tops
Rod Cross ^{a}^{)}
Department of Physics, University of Sydney, Sydney NSW 2006, Australia
(Received 25 June 2012; accepted 31 December 2012)
The motion of four different spinning tops was ﬁlmed with a highspeed video camera. Unlike pointed tops, tops with a rounded peg precess initially about a vertical axis that lies well outside the top, and then spiral inward until the precession axis passes through a point close to the centerofmass. The centerofmass of a top with a rounded peg can rise as a result of rolling rather than sliding friction, contrary to the explanation normally given for the rise of spinning tops. A tippe top was also ﬁlmed and was observed to jump vertically off a horizontal surface several times while the centerofmass was rising, contrary to the usual assumption that the normal reaction force
on a tippe top remains approximately equal to its weight. It was found that the centerofmass of a tippe top rises as a result of rolling friction at low spin frequencies and as a result of sliding friction at high spin frequencies. It was also found that, at low spin frequencies, a tippe top can precess at
two different frequencies simultaneously. V C
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4776195]
2013 American Association of Physics Teachers.
I. INTRODUCTION
The most fascinating aspect of a spinning top is that it can temporarily defy gravity by moving sideways and upward before it eventually falls. If the top spins fast enough it can rise to a sleeping position where the spin axis remains verti cal. Early experimenters and theoreticians ^{1} ^{–} ^{4} established that the rising of the centerofmass of a spinning top (or an egg or a football or a tippe top) is due to a torque arising from sliding friction at the bottom end. Parkyn disagreed, giving experimental evidence that rolling friction was responsible. Air friction and friction at the base of the top act to decrease the angular velocity of the top and it eventually starts to fall away from the vertical position. As it does so, the top starts to precess, the rate of precession being proportional to the height of its centerofmass and inversely proportional to the angular momentum of the top; at least, that is the case for the idealized top treated in elementary physics textbooks. There is now an extensive literature on the theory of spin ning tops, ^{6} ^{–} ^{1}^{6} but very little data on measured precession rates. In fact, the author was unable to ﬁnd any such data. The early experimenters measured the angular velocity of a top using a stroboscope, and could measure the inclination angle and the path of the bottom end on carbon paper or graphite, but did not provide any measurements of preces sion rates. The advent of relatively inexpensive highspeed video cameras makes such a measurement straightforward, and suitable for an experiment or project in an undergraduate laboratory. Results obtained by the author are presented below and are compared with simple theoretical estimates. The experiment described here is similar to others described previously concerning the precession of a spinning disk. ^{1}^{7} ^{,} ^{1}^{8} Results were obtained for (a) a sharply pointed top, (b) a top with a rounded peg, and (c) a tippe top. All three tops behave in qualitatively different manners. If the bottom end of a top is sharply pointed then the bottom end moves in a tight circular path of very small radius, in which case the centerofmass precesses slowly about a vertical axis passing through the bottom end. If the top has a rounded peg at the bottom then the bottom end can roll along a relatively large radius, approximately circular path. In that case, the upper and lower ends of the top, as well as the centerofmass, all precess around a common vertical axis located well outside
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the top. If the top then rises to a more vertical orientation, the precession axis can pass through the centerofmass, in which case the centerofmass of the top remains ﬁxed in space. A tippe top consists of a truncated sphere with a short peg on top. When the peg is spun between the ﬁngers, the tippe top precesses rapidly about a vertical axis, while the whole top rotates slowly about a horizontal axis until it ends up
spinning upright on the peg. A similar inversion and rise of
the centerofmass occurs when a circular disk with a large hole on one side is spun about a vertical axis. If the hole is initially at the top then the disk rolls along its edge until the hole is at the bottom, the spin axis remaining vertical. If the hole is initially at the bottom, it remains at the bottom.
II. SIMPLIFIED THEORETICAL DESCRIPTION OF A TOP
The equations describing the dynamics of a spinning top are often cast in forms that are far too complicated for stu dents to understand the underlying physics. Steady preces sion of a spinning top (or gyroscope) can be described in a simple and more intuitive manner by reference to Fig. 1. Ele mentary treatments are given by Crabtree, ^{7} by Deimel, ^{8} and by Barger and Olsson. ^{9} If the top or gyroscope is spinning with angular velocity x about a horizontal (x ) axis and is supported at the left end as in Fig. 1(a) , then it will precess at angular velocity X about the vertical (z ) axis. The angular momentum L is in the x direction, while the change in the angular momentum is in the same direction as the gravita tional torque s ¼ MgH , which points in the y direction. Since s ¼ dL =dt and L ¼ I x , it is easy to show that X ¼ MgH = ð I x ), where I is the moment of inertia of the top about the spin axis. This is the standard result derived in undergraduate physics textbooks, and it also applies to a top inclined at an arbitrary angle from the vertical. A spinning top is usually supported at its bottom end at a point O on a horizontal surface and the spin axis is inclined at an angle h from the vertical, as indicated in Fig. 1(b) . In this case, the torque in the y direction about an axis through O is s ¼ MgH sin h . Any force through O , including the fric tional force required to rotate the top about the z axis, does not contribute to this torque. A complication in Fig. 1(b) is
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Fig. 1. (a) Gyroscopic precession when the spin axis is horizontal and the axle is supported at the left end. (b) Precession of a gyroscope or a top when the spin axis is inclined at an angle h to the vertical. The top precesses by pivoting about point O, rotating into the page about an axis in the xzplane that is perpendicular to the spin axis.
that the moment of inertia I _{3} for rotation about the spin axis is usually smaller than the moment of inertia I _{1} for rotation about an axis perpendicular to the spin axis and passing through O . In Fig. 1(b) , the top precesses at angular velocity X about the z axis, by rotating into the plane of the page about the pivot point at O . Consequently, the top also rotates about the perpendicular axis shown in Fig. 1(b) . The component of the angular momentum of the top in a direction along the perpendicular axis is L _{?} ¼ I _{1} X sin h. The component of X in a direction parallel to the spin axis is X cos h . The total angular momentum in a direction parallel to the spin axis is therefore L _{k} ¼ I _{3} ð x þ X cos hÞ ¼ I _{3} x _{3} , where x is the spin imparted to the top about the spin axis and x _{3} ¼ x þ X cos h. The component of L _{k} along the x  axis is L _{x} ¼ L _{k} sin h . The total angular momentum in the x  direction is therefore I _{3} x _{3} sin h I _{1} Xsin h cos h. By equating the torque in the y direction to the rate of change of angular momentum in the x direction, as in Fig. 1(a) , we ﬁnd that
MgH ¼ I _{3} x _{3} X I _{1} X ^{2} cos h ;
(1)
which is quadratic in X and therefore yields two real solu tions for X , provided that
x > ð 2=I _{3} Þ½ MgH ð I _{1} I _{3} Þ cos h ^{1} ^{=} ^{2} :
(2)
The lower frequency solution (denoted X _{1} ) is the one usually described in elementary textbooks and is the one that is usu ally observed experimentally, while the higher frequency solu tion (denoted X _{2} ) is comparable to x _{3} . The textbook result is recovered when x X , in which case the second term on the right side of Eq. (1) can be ignored so that X MgH = ð I _{3} x Þ , regardless of the angle of inclination h. If the spin x is less than that given by Eq. (2) , then the top will not precess in a steady manner and will instead fall rap
281 Am. J. Phys., Vol. 81, No. 4, April 2013
idly to the ground. Otherwise, a rapidly spinning top tends to precess slowly, at the lower frequency, while simultaneously precessing in small subloops at high frequency. The sub loops grow in amplitude and decrease in frequency as the top slows down, arising from nutation of the top. That is, the in clination of the top varies periodically with time, according to the relation ^{9}
d ^{2} h
I
1
dt ^{2}
¼ ð MgH þ I _{1} X ^{2} cos h I _{3} x _{3} X Þ sin h:
(3)
Numerical solutions of Eq. (3) can be obtained by noting that in the absence of friction the angular momentum parallel to the spin axis remains constant in time, as does the angular momentum in the z direction L _{z} ¼ I _{1} X sin ^{2} h þ I _{3} x _{3} cos h. The latter conditions determine x ð t Þ and X ð t Þ at each time step for any given values of L _{k} and L _{z} . The particular solu tion of Eq. (3) given by Eq. (1) corresponds to steady preces sion without nutation. Analogous solutions are obtained if the bottom end of the top is rounded rather than being tapered to a sharp point. In this case, the bottom end of the top tends to roll along the surface supporting the top. The bottom end is not ﬁxed in space but follows a spiral path as indicated in Fig. 2 . If the bottom end is moving, valid solutions are best obtained by considering the torque acting about the top’s centerof
A component of that torque arises from the cen tripetal force F ¼ MR X ^{2} , where R is the radius of the path followed by the centerofmass. The centripetal force is pro vided by friction at the bottom end of the top, as indicated in Fig. 3. The normal reaction force N is equal to the weight Mg of the top provided that the top is not rising or falling.
mass.
19
, 20
Fig. 2. Motion of a spinning top with a spherical bottom end. The top initially rolls along a path that spirals inward as shown in (a). The top leans in toward the center of the path and precesses slowly about a vertical axis through the center of the path. As the top slows down, the radius of the path decreases and the top can assume a sleeping position as in (b) or it can precess as shown in (c). The circular disk has been omitted from part (c) for clarity.
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Fig. 3. Details of a spinning top with a rounded bottom peg of radius A. Here, G denotes the centerofmass of the top. The normal reaction force N and the centripetal force F both act through the contact point P at the bottom end of the top.
If A is the radius at the bottom end and D is the distance QG in Fig. 3, then the torque s about the centerofmass G is given by s ¼ MgD sin h MR X ^{2} ð A þ D cos h Þ . Consequently,
MgD MR X ^{2} ð A þ D cos hÞ = sin h ¼ I _{3} x _{3} X I _{c}_{m} X ^{2} cos h;
(4)
where I _{c}_{m} ¼ I _{1} M ð D þ A Þ ^{2} is the moment of inertia about the perpendicular axis through G . If the top rolls along the horizontal surface then
(5)
r x ¼ R _{0} X ;
where r ¼ A sin h is the perpendicular distance from the spin axis to the contact point P and R _{0} ¼ ð R þ D sin hÞ is the ra dius of the spiral path traced out by the contact point, as indi cated in Figs. 2 and 3. Equations (4) and (5) can be combined to eliminate R , in which case it is found that there are two possible precession frequencies, as before. If R ¼ 0 then F ¼ 0 and the precession axis passes through G, as indi cated in Fig. 2(c) . The direction of F is reversed in Fig. 3 if the precession axis passes through the contact point or if it is located anywhere else on the left side of G. In the latter case, R is negative (or the sign of the term containing R in Eq. (4) needs to be reversed) because the torque due to F then acts in the same direction as the torque due to N .
III. EXPERIMENTAL METHOD
The arrangement used in the present experiment is shown in Fig. 4. A versatile top (essentially a gyrostat or a gyro scope without its gymbals) was constructed using an 8mm thick aluminum disk of diameter 76 mm and mass 100.0 g. A 4mm diameter, 60mm long threaded steel rod of mass 5.8 g was inserted through a hole in the centerofthe disk and ﬁxed to the disk with a nut above and below the disk. The length of the peg at the bottom end was ﬁxed at either 17 or 27 mm in order to vary the height of the centerofmass of the top. The bottom end of the rod was ground to a sharp point. An experiment was also conducted with a large radius peg at the bottom end using a spherical, metal drawer knob
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Fig. 4. Experimental top constructed from a 76mm diameter, 8mm thick aluminum disk with a 60mm long threaded rod through the center of the disk. The bottom end of the rod was tapered to a sharp point. Alternatively, a spherical ball could be screwed onto the bottom end.
of diameter 15 mm screwed onto the bottom end as indicated in Fig. 2. Results obtained by ﬁlming a small, plastic tippe top are also presented. Each top was spun on a smooth, horizontal surface either by hand at low speed or by wrapping a length of string around the threaded rod to increase the speed. When using string to spin the top, the upper end of the rod was allowed to spin inside a vertical cylinder to keep the top approximately vertical and the cylinder was then lifted clear. Marks drawn on the spinning top were observed by ﬁlming at 300 fps with a Casio EXF1 cam era, viewing either from directly above the top or from the side in order to observe motion of the peg on the surface. ^{2}^{1} Both views provided the same information on the spin angular veloc ity of the top x and the angular velocity of precession X . The tilt angle h with respect to the vertical was measured for con venience from the side view, by recording the angle to the left and right of the vertical axis. A subtle feature regarding the measurement of x is that x is conventionally deﬁned in a rotating coordinate system attached to the top and rotating about the zaxis at angular ve locity X . The moments of inertia are also deﬁned in this rotat ing coordinate system so that they remain constant in time. The top precesses at angular velocity X about the zaxis, so the apparent spin recorded by a ﬁxed camera mounted above the top is x þ X. ^{1}^{7} A camera rotating at angular velocity X around the zaxis to follow the top would record its spin as x . In this paper, most measurements of x were obtained by sub tracting the measured value of X from the apparent spin recorded from the ﬁxed camera. Some measurements of x were also obtained by recording the rotation angle of the top only when the top reached a ﬁxed point in its precession cycle, for example, when it was leaning to the left or to the right. Depending on the initial spin and the actual surface on which the tops were spun, the tops were observed to spin for up to about two minutes and rotated up to about 1000 times before falling. Measurements were made of (a) the time at which each top completed successive sets of ten spin revolu tions, (b) the time to complete each successive precession rev olution, and (c) the tilt angle at about 50 different times from the start to the end of each spin. The angular speeds could be measured to an accuracy of better than 1% and the tilt angle could be measured to within 0 :5 ^{} . However, the tilt angle
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itself varied by up to about 5 ^{} during each precession revolu tion, due to nutation of the top. Side view measurements of the tilt angle were made when the top tilted to the right and again when the top tilted to the left to obtain an average of the two tilt angles. At high spin rates, the tops were observed to rise slowly, while at low spin rates the tops were observed to fall slowly. Under some conditions, the tops maintained a con stant tilt angle when set spinning on a horizontal surface. Properties of each top, including the peg radius A , total mass M , and the distance H from the bottom end to the cen terofmass, are listed in Table I . Also listed are the moment ofinertia I _{3} about the central axis, and the momentofinertia I _{1} about a transverse axis through the bottom end. Top 3 included a 16.8 g, 15mm diameter ball at the bottom end. Top 4 was a hollow, plastic tippe top with an 11mm long peg attached to a truncated, 34.8mm diameter sphere, spun by hand on a horizontal sheet of aluminum.
IV. RESULTS WITH TOPS 1 AND 2
A typical result obtained with Top 1 is shown in Fig. 5. The top had an initial spin of x ¼ 126 rad/s that decreased to 44 rad/s over 31 s before the top fell onto the horizontal sur face. During that time the precession frequency X increased from 2.7 rad/s to 8.6 rad/s and the angle of inclination of the top increased from 8 ^{} to 21 ^{} . The top did not rise to a sleep ing position. The results in Fig. 5 were obtained by plotting the (x, y) coordinates of the upper end of the threaded rod at 0.01s intervals during four different precession cycles. The ﬁrst cycle, from t ¼ 0.73–3.05 s, took 2.32 s to complete one revo lution, corresponding to an average precession frequency of X ¼ 2.7 rad/s. During that time the top also rotated many times in smallradius subloops, at 123 6 0: 5 rad =s, coinci dent with the spin frequency x of the top. The standard ex planation of the subloops is that they correspond to nutation of the top; however, nutation is expected at a frequency lower than the spin frequency when x X. For example, numerical solution of Eq. (3) gives an expected nutation fre quency of 102 rad/s for Top 1 when x ¼ 123 rad/s. A likely explanation of the nutation shown in Fig. 5 is that the top was slightly asymmetrical and therefore dynamically unbal anced, despite care being taken to avoid this problem. The problem remained unresolved and persisted even when the sharply pointed tip was resharpened several times in case there was an asymmetry in the tip itself. Different behavior was observed when Top 1 was spun at low frequency, as shown in Fig. 6. In this case the top pre cessed at a relatively large tilt angle h and was strongly modulated by nutation at a frequency about three times higher than the precession frequency. The result is well described by solutions of Eq. (3). Nutation has the effect of introducing strong modulation of both x and X during each precession cycle, a result that was apparent simply when
TABLE I. Parameters of the four tops.
Top 
A (mm) 
M (g) 
H (mm) 
I _{3} (kg m ^{2} Þ 
I _{1} (kg m ^{2} ) 
1 
0.1 
105 
21.0 
7:23 10 ^{} ^{5} 
8:48 10 ^{} ^{5} 
2 
0.1 
105 
31.0 
7:23 10 ^{} ^{5} 
1:39 10 ^{} ^{4} 
3 
7.5 
123 
21.5 
7:27 10 ^{} ^{5} 
9:11 10 ^{} ^{5} 
4 
17.4 
6.3 
15.0 
1:12 10 ^{} ^{6} 
2:56 10 ^{} ^{6} 
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Fig. 5. Motion of the upper end of Top 1, viewed from above, recorded over four different time intervals during a single spin of the top. Each time interval corresponds to one lowfrequency precession cycle. The (x, y) coordinates of the upper end are plotted at intervals of 0.01 s, as indicated by the dots in the outer two trajectories. As time passes the angle of inclination of the top increases until it eventually falls at t ¼ 31 s after completing 430 revolutions.
observing the top by eye. The motion was quite “jerky,” de spite the fact that the apparent spin observed in the labora tory reference frame remained almost constant with time during any given precession cycle. Solutions of Eq. (3) show the same effect. That is, x þ X remains almost constant in time, despite the fact that x and X both vary strongly with time and reverse sign several times during each precession
Fig. 6. Motion of the upper end of Top 1, viewed from above, when the spin is initially small, showing the ﬁrst precession cycle. The (x, y) coordinates of the upper end are plotted at intervals of 1/150 s, as indicated by the dots. The top fell at t ¼ 7.2 s after completing 50 spin revolutions. A 300fps video of this motion can be viewed in the online version of the paper or downloaded from the online supplement (enhanced online) [URL: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1119/1.4776195.1] [URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4776195.2] [URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4776195.3] [URL: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1119/1.4776195.4] [URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4776195.5] [URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4776195.6 ]. ^{2}^{1}
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cycle. The values of x and X quoted in Fig. 6 are time aver aged values over one complete precession cycle. A comparison between the observed and predicted steady precession frequencies of Tops 1 and 2 is shown in Fig. 7. Solu tions of Eq. (1) are relatively insensitive to the assumed angle of inclination h so the simplifying assumption that h ¼ 10 ^{} was made in Fig. 7, corresponding to a typical tilt angle. Tops 1 and 2 were observed to fall when x decreased below about 15 rad/s and 40 rad/s respectively, as expected from Eq. (2). An interesting result was obtained with Tops 1 and 2 after they fell onto the horizontal table. The precession rapidly reversed direction because the tops started rolling on the outer edge of the disk about a vertical axis through the pointy end. The pointy end remained ﬁxed on the table so the disk rolled along a circular path, with the disk in Fig. 4 resting on the table. The rolling condition was accurately described by Eq. (5) , r being the radius of the disk (38 mm) and R _{0} being the horizontal distance from the sharp end of the peg to the edge of the disk. Video taken at 30 fps with a 20mm long peg showed that the disk started rolling on its edge when X ¼ 8 : 8 rad = s and x ¼ þ 10: 0 rad =s, corresponding to an apparent spin of x þ X ¼ 1 :2 rad = s measured in the laboratory frame of reference. According to Eq. (5) , x ¼ R _{0} X = r ¼ 1 :135 X when the disk was rolling, as meas ured experimentally to within 1% over a 20s interval while the disk gradually rolled to a stop. The signiﬁcance of this result is described in Sec. VII A .
V. RESULTS WITH TOP 3
Results obtained with Top 3 are shown in Fig. 8. The top was set spinning at x ¼ 56 rad/s and it continued to spin for 80 s before falling. During that time, the tilt angle decreased steadily from 23 ^{} at t ¼ 0 to 4: 7 ^{} at t ¼ 50 s before increasing sharply at t 60 s, marking the beginning of the fall. The steady rise of the top is shown in Fig. 8. During the rise phase, the top spiraled slowly inwards to the center of its ini tial 62mm radius path until the radius decreased to about 1 mm, by which time the spin x had decreased to about 32 rad/s. During the whole rise phase a small amplitude, highfrequency precession of the top was observed at the same frequency as the spin frequency x indicating that the
Fig. 7. Precession data obtained with Top 1 (solid dots) and Top 2 (open squares). The solid and dashed curves are solutions of Eq. (1) for these tops, assuming h ¼ 10 ^{} .
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Fig. 8. Precession data obtained with Top 3. The solid dots (open circles) are the experimental data for the spin x (precession frequency X) vs. time. Also shown are best ﬁt curves to the experimental data for h and R _{0} vs. time. The curve passing through the X data is the solution given by Eq. (4). Vid eos of the motion, taken at 300 fps, can be viewed in the online version of the paper or downloaded from the online supplement. ^{2}^{1}
top was slightly asymmetrical. The lowfrequency preces sion of the top was in excellent agreement with Eq. (4) , as indicated in Fig. 8. The solution of Eq. (4) shown in Fig. 8 was obtained using bestﬁt curves to the x , R , and h data in order to calculate X as a function of time. The top spiraled inwards by rolling rather than sliding, with r x equal to R _{0} X within experimental error up to t ¼ 50 s. Beyond that time it was not possible to ascertain whether the top was rolling or sliding due to the relatively large percentage ﬂuctuations in both R _{0} and h as they approached zero. Beyond t ¼ 50 s the top appeared visually to roll around a vertical precession axis passing through or close to the centerofmass of the top.
VI. BEHAVIOR OF THE TIPPE TOP
The most interesting behavior of a tippe top occurs when it is spun rapidly, in which case the top quickly inverts and ends up spinning on its peg. The behavior at low spinrates is also relevant and of interest in its own right. A tippe top then behaves more like a regular top but the low centerofmass gives rise to several major differences. One difference is that the spin axis remains nearly vertical, even though the peg itself (as well as the whole top) rotates away from its initial vertical position. At low spinrates, the peg rotates away from the vertical until it reaches a limiting tilt angle, without inverting, and then continues to spin at that limiting angle for some time before righting itself.
A. Low spin behavior
At low spinrates, the top was observed to precess at two different frequencies simultaneously. This behavior was par ticularly evident when the top was spun with its peg inclined initially about 10 ^{} away from the vertical. The behavior of the top was then qualitatively similar to Top 3 since the top spiralled inwards as it precessed slowly in an approximately circular path. A typical result is shown in Fig. 9 where the initial spin about an axis through the peg was 266 0 : 2 rad = s, measured in the laboratory reference frame. The spin
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decreased linearly to 11 rad/s over 12 s. Only the ﬁrst 2 s is shown in Fig. 9, while the tilt angle increased from about 5 ^{} to about 20 ^{} . The peg precessed about a vertical axis through its centerofmass at an initial rate X _{1} ¼ 306 0 :2 rad = s and it simultaneously precessed at X _{2} ¼ 2: 46 0 : 2 rad = s about a vertical axis located near the outside edge of the 35mm di ameter top. The two precession frequencies are not simply the two solutions of Eq. (4) for this top, nor do they corre spond to a lowfrequency precession combined with a high frequency nutation. The observed highfrequency precession corresponds to the lowfrequency solution of Eq. (4) when R ¼ 0. In that case, Eq. (4) reduces to
MgD ¼ I _{3} xX þ ð I _{3} I _{c}_{m} Þ X ^{2} cos h :
(6)
For a tippe top, I _{c}_{m} is approximately equal to I _{3} so the second term on the righthandside of Eq. (6) can be ignored at low spin frequencies, giving X MgD =ð I _{3} x Þ . The precession frequency is then the standard textbook result but there are two unusual features for a tippe top. The ﬁrst is that D is neg ative because the centerofmass is below the centerofcur vature. The second is that x is also negative because the top precessed at a higher frequency than the observed spin of the top in the laboratory reference frame. Taking D ¼ 2: 4 mm, I _{3} from Table I , and x ¼ 26 30 ¼ 4: 0 rad =s gives X ¼ 29 : 3 rad = s, essentially as observed. Because the tippe top precessed at the higher frequency about an axis through its centerofmass, the rolling condi tion is given from Eq. (5) by A x ¼ DX or X =x ¼ 7 : 25 for this top. The observed ratio was X = x ¼ 7: 56 0: 7, consist ent with visual and slow motion video observations that the tippe top rolled on the horizontal surface while its centerof mass was rising. The observed lowfrequency precession corresponds to the solution of Eq. (4) when R is taken as about –16 mm and
Fig. 9. Observed trajectory of the tippe top peg when the top was spun at low speed. Observed from above, the top spins counterclockwise in the lab oratory reference frame, precesses slowly along a 16mmradius circular path in a clockwise direction, and precesses rapidly around a small radius path in a counterclockwise direction. The center of the peg is shown by dots at intervals of 0.02 s. The peg rotated slowly away from a vertical posi tion but the top did not invert. Videos of the motion can be viewed in the online version of the paper or downloaded from the online supplement. ^{2}^{1}
285 Am. J. Phys., Vol. 81, No. 4, April 2013
h 11 ^{} . A negative value of R is required in Eq. (4) because the torque on the tippe top due to the centripetal force acts in the same direction as that due to the normal reaction force. The tilt angle h does not remain constant while the top pre cesses at high frequency and while it slowly tilts, but the quoted value can be taken as a time average during one low frequency precession cycle. In that case, Eq. (4) indicates that X ¼ 2: 4 rad =s (as observed) when R ¼ 16 mm and x ¼ 26 þ 2: 4 ¼ 28 : 4 rad =s (i.e., the spin of the top in a coor dinate system rotating at –2.4 rad/s).
B. Fast spin behavior
A preliminary experiment with the tippe top showed that
it occasionally inverted when spun at high speed, but it did so by pausing for about one second after the peg had rotated
through an angle of about 100 ^{} . In that position, the center ofmass was directly above the contact point on the horizon tal surface so the normal reaction force then passed through the centerofmass. However, the apparent stability of the top in that orientation was traced to an almost imperceptible ridge where the two halves of the plastic top were joined. The ridge was removed with a ﬁne ﬁle, with the result that the one second pause was eliminated and the top inverted almost every time it was spun rather than just occasionally. At high spinrates, there was no observable lowfrequency precession of a tippe top because the top inverted well before it completed one lowfrequency precession cycle. Instead, the top precessed about a vertical axis passing through the centerofmass while the axis of symmetry (passing through the peg) tilted slowly away from the vertical until the top was fully inverted.
A typical inversion result for the modiﬁed tippe top is
shown in Fig. 10 . The top was given an initial spin of X ¼ 228 rad = s by hand about a vertical axis. The top precessed rapidly about this axis the entire time while rotating slowly about a horizontal axis. During the interval t ¼ 0 to t ¼ 1.06 s, the top rotated on its spherical shell. The peg ﬁrst touched the surface at t ¼ 1.06 s and the shell lost contact with the surface at t ¼ 1.09 s. At t ¼ 1.17 s the top became airborne; the peg then landed back on the surface, bounced several times before becoming airborne again, jumping to a height of 2 mm off the aluminum surface. Jumping and bouncing continued up to t ¼ 1.41 s, and from then on the peg remained in contact with the surface. By t ¼ 1.50 s, the top had completely inverted, having rotated by 180 ^{} . The air
borne phase was reproducible and was not caused by any irregularities in the horizontal surface, despite the fact that the aluminum surface was slightly scratched. The effect was also observed on smoother surfaces. An aluminum surface was used to record data for the tippe top in order to estimate the jump height more accurately from the measured distance between the tippe top and its reﬂected image. The spin x was estimated from a sideon camera view using two different techniques. While the peg remained approximately vertical, any given mark on the top rotated to the front of the tippe top in a time that could easily be inter preted in terms of the spin of the top as measured in the labo ratory reference frame. The spin x in the rotating reference frame was obtained by subtracting the measured precession frequency shown in Fig. 10(a) . During the ﬁrst 0.7 s, x remained approximately constant at about 2 rad/s. By the time the peg had rotated into an approximately horizontal position, marks on the bottom section of the tippe top had
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Fig. 10. Typical result showing (a) the precession frequency X and tilt angle h , and (b) the spin x vs. time for the tippe top. The spin reversed direction when h 90 ^{} . The top became airborne and bounced several times soon af ter the peg touched the surface. A 300fps video of the jumping tippe top can be viewed in the online version of the paper or downloaded from the online supplement. ^{2}^{1}
become visible and their angular displacement was recorded each time the peg pointed to the left or the right or away from the camera, once every precession cycle. The marks rotated slowly around the axis of symmetry, giving a direct measure of x consistent with the ﬁrst technique. As indicated in Fig. 10(b), x reversed sign at t ¼ 0.82 s when h 90 ^{} ; this effect was ﬁrst observed and explained by Pliskin ^{1}^{0} almost 60 years ago by spinning a tippe top on carbon paper. Pliskin noted that x was relatively small, but did not measure its magnitude. The magnitude of x is of interest for two reasons. It indi cates that (a) the top was sliding rather than rolling on the horizontal surface and (b) the top precessed in a manner qualitatively consistent with Eq. (6) . As described previ ously, the rolling condition for the tippe top is satisﬁed if X =x ¼ 7 : 25. Apart from the fact that X was much larger than 7: 25 x when the top was spun at high speed on its shell, x was of the wrong sign for the ﬁrst 0.82 s to satisfy the roll ing condition. Solutions of Eq. (6) are shown in Table II for conditions relevant to the results in Fig. 10 and with D ¼ 2: 4 mm ; I _{3}
286 Am. J. Phys., Vol. 81, No. 4, April 2013
¼ 1: 12 10 ^{} ^{6} kg m ^{2} , and I _{c}_{m} ¼ 1: 14 10 ^{} ^{6} kg m ^{2} . The
solutions were obtained by varying x to obtain a value of X _{2} consistent with the data in Fig. 10(a) . The resulting value of x is at least qualitatively consistent with the data in Fig. 10(b). The lowfrequency solution of Eq. (6) was not observed. Exact agreement with steady precession solutions of Eq. (6) is not expected since the rise of a tippe top is a dynamic process involving a frictional torque in addition to the torque due to the normal reaction force. Nevertheless, it is clear from the data in Table II that when a tippe top spins at high frequency it precesses at a frequency that is close to the higher of the two available precession frequencies.
VII. DISCUSSION
A. Rolling condition
The rolling experiment with Tops 1 and 2 provided a use ful and accurate check on the validity of Eq. (5) , and also provided insights into the differences between the three dif ferent “spins” x, x _{3} , and x þ X . Barger and Olsson ^{9} quote an incorrect version of the rolling condition for a spinning top, effectively replacing x in Eq. (5) with x _{3} . It is relatively common for authors to describe x _{3} as the spin of a top about its axis of symmetry, even though x _{3} cannot be measured or viewed directly in the laboratory. ^{,} ^{2}^{2} From a theoretical point of view, the components of the angular velocity vector of greatest interest are x _{1} ¼ X sin h and x _{3} ¼ x þ X cos h, as indicated in Fig. 1. Both components can be calculated from measurements of X , x , and h, which are the primary quanti ties of interest experimentally. The rolling condition for a top, such as the one shown in Fig. 3, can be determined ei ther from the components x _{1} and x _{3} or from X and x , but not from x _{3} and X as assumed by Barger and Olsson in their Eq. (6178). Confusion can easily arise because x and x _{3} both point along the axis of symmetry of a top; however, they differ in magnitude. It is instructive to derive the rolling condition for the fallen Tops 1 and 2 using the two different approaches. The geometry is shown in Fig. 11. Precession on its own would cause the contact point P (on the edge of the top) to emerge out of the page at speed v ¼ R X , where R ¼ r þ A cos h. Spin on its own would cause P to rotate into the page at speed A x . If the disk is rolling (without slipping) then P remains at rest and
9
A x ¼ ð r þ A cos hÞ X :
(7)
The same result can be derived in terms of x _{1} and x _{3} . The angular velocity of the disk has a component x _{3}
¼ x X cos h along the spin axis and a component
¼ X sin h perpendicular to the spin axis. The x _{3} component
would cause P to rotate into the page at speed A x _{3} . The x _{1}
component would cause P to rotate out of the page at speed H x _{1} , where H is the length of the peg. Since P remains at rest we have
x
_{1}
TABLE II. Solutions of Eq. (6) for the conditions shown in Fig. 10.
h 
8 ^{} 
50 ^{} 
87 ^{} 
110 ^{} 
130 ^{} 
x (rad/s) X _{1} (rad/s) X _{2} (rad/s) 
3.5 
2 
–0.5 
–1.83 
–2.7 
–32 
–51 
–728 
121 
70 

230 
225 
194 
178 
166 

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Fig. 11. Tops 1 and 2 rolled about point O on the edge of their disks when they fell onto the table, with x and X in opposite directions as drawn. The rolling condition in this case is given by Eq. (7) or Eq. (8).
Að x X cos hÞ ¼ H X sin h ¼ r X ;
which is the same as Eq. (7) .
(8)
B. Rolling vs. sliding
The rise in the centerofmass of a spinning top or a tippe top is usually explained in terms of sliding friction acting at the bottom end. However, this explanation does not account for the observed rise of Top 3 or the rise of the tippe top at low spin rates because the tops were found to roll on the hor izontal surface while they were rising. But rolling friction by itself does not account for the rise of the tops either. Con sider the situation shown in Fig. 2(a) or in Fig. 3 when the top is on the left side of the precession axis and is rolling into the page. Rolling friction opposes rolling motion and therefore acts at point P in a direction out of the page. Therein lies not one but two signiﬁcant problems. The ﬁrst is that rolling friction exerts a torque on the spherical peg in a direction that would increase the spin of the top. In fact, the spin of Top 3 decreased with time, a result that could perhaps be explained by an even larger torque due to air resistance. The second problem is that the torque on the top due to roll ing friction, acting about the centerofmass, should cause the top to fall rather than rise. The rise of a spinning top, resulting in a decrease in the tilt angle, can be regarded as an effect due to the friction tor que, in the same way that the torque due to the gravitational force results in the precession shown in Fig. 1. That is, the top precesses or tilts in such a way that the change in the angular momentum points in the same direction as the applied torque. It therefore appears that the friction force act ing at P must act in a direction into the page rather than out of the page, a result that would arise if r x was larger than R _{0} X and if point P in Fig. 3 was therefore sliding out of the page while the peg as a whole moved into the page. This is why it is usually assumed that sliding rather than rolling fric tion must be responsible for the rise of tops (tippe tops in particular ^{1}^{1} ^{,} ^{1}^{4} ^{,} ^{1}^{5} ) and is why Crabtree ^{7} noted in his 1909 book, as did others before him, that a horizontal force that “hurries” the precession will cause a spinning top to rise. There is an alternative explanation of the two problems, not previously considered in relation to spinning tops, con
cerned with the nature and origin of rolling friction.
23 , ^{2}^{4} _{T}_{h}_{e}
explanation is illustrated in Fig. 12 . If a spherical ball of mass M and radius R is rolling in a straight line on a horizon
287 Am. J. Phys., Vol. 81, No. 4, April 2013
tal surface at speed v and angular velocity x , then v ¼ Rx at all times, even if v is decreasing with time. The rolling fric tion force F acts to decrease v and it also exerts a torque on the ball which has the effect of increasing x . Consequently, rolling cannot be maintained without some other torque to counter the effect of the friction torque. In practice, it is found that a ball can indeed slow down while continuing to roll without sliding, a result that can only be explained if the normal reaction force N acts through a point located a dis tance S ahead of the center of the ball, as indicated in Fig. 12. In this case, the ball can roll with v ¼ Rx and with dv= dt ¼ Rd x =dt , consistent with
F ¼ Mdv =dt and FR NS ¼ Id x =dt ; (9)
where I is the moment of inertia of the ball about an axis through its centerofmass. Because N ¼ Mg we ﬁnd that the coefﬁcient of rolling friction is given by
l ¼
N F _{¼} MRS
I þ
_{M}_{R} _{2} ;
(10)
and that x can decrease with time despite the fact that F by itself would lead to an increase in x —the net torque on the ball is in the opposite direction to that due to F alone. The same effect can be invoked to explain the behavior of Top 3 as it rolls along a spiral path. The horizontal friction force acting on the top can be estimated from the linear decel eration of the centerofmass along the spiral path, giving F ¼ 0.0013 N at t ¼ 0, which corresponds to l ¼ 0 :0011. The coefﬁcient of friction decreased even further as the top slowed down along the spiral path. The friction torque acting on Top 3 can be estimated from the rate at which the spin decreases, ignoring air resistance. Since I _{3} ¼ 7 : 27 10 ^{} ^{5} kg m ^{2} for Top 3 and d x =dt ¼ 0 : 48 rad=s ^{2} averaged over the ﬁrst 50 s, the average torque on the top about the spin axis was 3 : 49 10 ^{} ^{5} N m. To simplify the following calculation, we will assume that such a torque arises from an equivalent friction force F _{E} acting in the opposite direction to the expected direction (due to the offset in N), in which case the torque about the spin axis in Fig. 3 is F _{E} r ¼ F _{E} A sin h . The data for x and h in Fig. 8 yields a timeaveraged value F _{E} 0 :03 N. Since Mg ¼ 1: 21 N for Top 3, this value of F _{E} , and the corresponding value for F, are consistent with rolling and are much too small to be consistent with sliding. The effect of the torque due to F _{E} acting about the center ofmass of the top would be to decrease the tilt angle h at a rate d h=dt F _{E} H =ð I _{3} x Þ 0: 015 rad = s. In fact h decreased by 19 ^{} over 50 s, as shown in Fig. 8, at an average rate d h= dt ¼ 0: 007 rad = s, or about half the estimated rate.
Fig. 12. The forces on a rolling ball include a horizontal friction force F and the normal reaction force N acting a distance S ahead of the center of the ball.
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Given that air resistance also acts to reduce x , it is certainly possible that F _{E} was about half its estimated value. A more detailed investigation of the rate of rise is warranted, but the simple estimate outlined here shows that the relevant force responsible for the rising of Top 3 is that due to rolling and not that due to sliding.
C. The tippe top
The observed inversion of the tippe top was consistent with previous observations of its behavior, although the air borne phase seems not to have been previously documented for a tippe top. It has, however, been previously observed with spinning eggs, ^{2}^{2} ^{,} ^{2}^{5} and similar jumping behavior has also been observed with a “hopping” hoop. ^{2}^{6} The jump height of the tippe top, about 2 mm, was considerably higher than the 0.08mm jump observed with spinning eggs. In
checking the latter result, the author found that even a bil liard ball can jump by about 0.1 mm when rolling along a straight line on carbon paper on a relatively smooth surface,
a result that was presumably due to slight surface roughness rather than any asymmetry in the ball.
At higher spin rates than the one shown in Fig. 10 the top
also became airborne for a brief period well before the peg touched the surface. From the rate of change of the tilt angle just before the largest jump it was estimated that the vertical acceleration of the centerofmass, due to its vertical dis placement, was only about 1 m/s ^{2} at most. Such a result can
not explain the jump. However, the centerofmass of the top did not rise along a vertical path. Rather, it rose along an arc arising from a rapid spin about the vertical axis combined with a lowerspeed spin about a horizontal axis. The exact path and the velocity of the centerofmass could not be measured, but a reasonable estimate is that the velocity was about 0.1 m/s and the arc radius was about 1 mm. As a result, the centripetal acceleration of the centerofmass could have been as high as 10 m/s ^{2} in a vertically downward direction, in which case the normal reaction force on the peg would indeed have dropped to zero as the top rose and then jumped off the surface.
A more fundamental question, addressed previously by
many authors, is why a tippe top actually inverts. Sliding friction is invoked by most authors to explain the inversion, although the experimental evidence for sliding has been based primarily on the interpretation of skid marks on graph
In 1957, Parkyn claimed that “There can be no doubt
that the fundamental motion of a top is one of rolling, and that rolling friction is necessary to explain the nature of the rise.” In the present paper, direct measurements of the spin about the symmetry axis have shown that a tippe top rolls at
low spin frequencies and slides at high spin frequencies. The centerofmass rises in both cases. The dynamics of the pro cess needs to be studied in more detail to understand why rolling occurs only at low spin rates, but it is clear that roll ing can occur only if the ratio X =x is about 7 or so, depend ing on the geometry and inertial properties of the tippe top. The equations describing steady precession indicate that this condition is satisﬁed only if X is relatively small. Behavior analogous to that observed with the tippe top is also observed with a spinning egg. A spinning egg rolls and precesses at two different frequencies simultaneously when it is spun at low speed. ^{2}^{7} A sphere or bowling ball that is projected along
a horizontal surface, while spinning about a near vertical
axis, also rolls if it is projected at relatively low speed. ^{2}^{8}
_{i}_{t}_{e}_{.} 2 , 3 , 5
5
288 Am. J. Phys., Vol. 81, No. 4, April 2013
VIII. CONCLUSION
Four different spinning tops were investigated by ﬁlming their behavior with a highspeed video camera. Two of the tops had a sharply pointed peg, one had a 15mm diameter spherical peg, and the last was a tippe top. All were found to precess at rates consistent with those expected for steady pre cession. A highfrequency precession was also observed for the tops with pointed ends, coinciding with the spin fre quency at high spinrates and most likely due to a small asymmetry in each top. The tops with a sharply pointed peg precessed about a ver tical axis passing through the bottom of the peg, while the top with a spherical peg precessed initially about a vertical axis located well outside the top and then spiraled inwards until the precession axis passed through a point close to the centerofmass. During that time, the centerofmass rose gradually until the top was almost vertical, a result that could be attributed to the fact that the spherical peg rolled along a spiral path without sliding. The well known but still fascinating rise in the centerof mass of a tippe top is usually attributed to sliding friction at the base of the top, but it was found that the centerofmass rose even when the top was rolling. Rolling is not normally considered as a candidate to explain the rise of a spinning top because the friction force acts in the wrong direction. How ever, the net torque on a rolling sphere does act in the correct direction due to an offset in the normal reaction force when a sphere rolls along a horizontal surface. Inversion of the tippe top did not occur at a steady rate. The top was observed to jump off the surface before inverting, contrary to the usual theoretical assumption that the normal reaction force on a tippe top is approximately equal to its weight. ^{1}^{4} ^{,}^{1}^{5} When spun at high frequency, the tippe top was found to precess at a fre quency close to the higher of the two available precession fre quencies. By contrast, a conventional top usually precesses at the lower of the two available precession frequencies. In addition to the rolling vs. sliding question, there are many other aspects of spinning tops and other spinning objects that could be investigated further by video techni ques. For example, what difference does it make if the hori zontal surface is smooth or rough or lubricated? Is energy or angular momentum conserved when a top rises? What deter mines the rate of rise or fall of a spinning top? All of these questions could be investigated as student projects. There is
a large variety of tops and gyros that are available for study, recently reviewed and colorfully illustrated by Featonby.
29
^{a}^{)} Electronic mail: cross@physics.usyd.edu.au ^{1} C. M. Braams, “On the inﬂuence of friction on the motion of a top,” Phys ica (Amsterdam) 18, 503–514 (1952). ^{2} A. D. Fokker, “The rising top, experimental evidence and theory,” Physica 8, 591–596 (1941). ^{3} A. D. Fokker, “The tracks of top’s pegs on the ﬂoor,” Physica (Amster dam) 18, 497–502 (1952). ^{4} N. M. Hugenholtz, “On tops rising by friction,” Physica (Amsterdam) 18, 515–527 (1952). ^{5} D. G. Parkyn, “The Rising of Tops with Rounded Pegs,” Physica (Amster dam) 24, 313–330 (1958). ^{6} J. Perry, Spinning Tops and Gyroscopic Motions (Sheldon, London, 1890, reprinted by Dover, 1957). ^{7} H. Crabtree, An Elementary Treatment of the Theory of Spinning Tops and Gyroscopic Motion (Longmans Green, London, 1909, reprinted by Chel sea, 1967). ^{8} R. F. Deimel, Mechanics of the Gyroscope: The Dynamics of Rotation (Dover, New York, 1952).
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^{9} V. Barger and M. Olsson, Classical Mechanics, A Modern Perspective , 2nd ed. (McGrawHill, New York, 1994). ^{1}^{0} W. A. Pliskin, “The tippe top (topsyturvy top),” Am. J. Phys. 22, 28–32 (1954). ^{1}^{1} R. J. Cohen, “The tippe top revisited,” Am. J. Phys. 45, 12–17 (1977). ^{1}^{2} L. Stefanini, “Behavior of a real top,” Am. J. Phys. 47, 346–350 (1979). ^{1}^{3} K. Schonhammer, “Elementary theoretical description of the heavy sym metric top,” Am. J. Phys. 66, 1003–1007 (1998). ^{1}^{4} C. G. Gray and B. G. Nickel, “Constants of motion for nonslipping tippe tops and other tops with round pegs,” Am. J. Phys. 68, 821–828 (2000). ^{1}^{5} H. Soodak, “A geometric theory of rapidly spinning tops, tippe tops, and footballs,” Am. J. Phys. 70, 815–828 (2002). ^{1}^{6} M. V. Berry and P. Shukla, “Slow manifold and Hannay angle in the spin ning top,” Eur. J. Phys. 32, 115–127 (2011). ^{1}^{7} D. Petrie, J. L. Hunt, and C. G. Gray, “Does the Euler Disk slip during its motion?” Am. J. Phys. 70, 1025–1028 (2002). ^{1}^{8} H. Caps, S. Dorbolo, S. Ponte, H. Croisier, and N. Vandewalle, “Rolling and slipping motion of Euler’s disk,” Phys. Rev. E 69, 0566101–6 (2004). ^{1}^{9} F. R. Zypman, “Moments to remember  The conditions for equating torque and rate of change of angular momentum,” Am. J. Phys. 58, 41–43 (1990).
^{2}^{0} R. Cross, “The fall and bounce of pencils and other elongated objects,” Am. J. Phys. 74, 26–30 (2006). ^{2}^{1} See supplementary material at http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4776195 for some sample movies. ^{2}^{2} H. K. Moffatt and Y. Shimomura, “Spinning eggs—a paradox resolved,” Nature, 416, 385–386 (2002). ^{2}^{3} J. Witters and D. Duymelinck, “Rolling and sliding resistive forces on balls moving on a ﬂat surface,” Am. J. Phys. 54, 80–83 (1986). ^{2}^{4} A. Domenech, T. Domenech, and J. Cebrian, “Introduction to the study of rolling friction,” Am. J. Phys. 55, 231–235 (1987). ^{2}^{5} T. Mitsui, K. Aihara, C. Terayama, H. Kobayashi, and Y. Shimomura, “Can a spinning egg really jump?,” Proc. R. Soc. London, Ser. A 462, 2897–2905 (2006). ^{2}^{6} M. F. Maritz and W. F. D. Theron, “Experimental veriﬁcation of the motion of a loaded hoop,” Am. J. Phys. 80, 594–598 (2012). ^{2}^{7} R. Cross, “Spinning eggs and ballerinas,” Phys. Ed. (accepted). ^{2}^{8} R. Cross, “Rolling motion of a ball spinning about a nearvertical axis,” Phys. Teach. 50, 25–27 (2012). ^{2}^{9} D. Featonby, “Dare we teach tops?” Phys. Ed. 45, 409–420 (2010).
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