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# The rise and fall of spinning tops

## The rise and fall of spinning tops

Rod Crossa)
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 lmed with a high-speed 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 center-of-mass. The center-of-mass 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 lmed and was observed to jump vertically off a horizontal surface several times while the center-of-mass 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 center-of-mass 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 C 2013 American Association of Physics Teachers. two different frequencies simultaneously. V [http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4776195] 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 vertical. Early experimenters and theoreticians14 established that the rising of the center-of-mass 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. Parkyn5 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 center-of-mass 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 spinning tops,616 but very little data on measured precession rates. In fact, the author was unable to nd 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 precession rates. The advent of relatively inexpensive high-speed 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.17,18 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 center-of-mass 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 largeradius, approximately circular path. In that case, the upper and lower ends of the top, as well as the center-of-mass, 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 center-of-mass, in which case the center-of-mass of the top remains xed in space. A tippe top consists of a truncated sphere with a short peg on top. When the peg is spun between the ngers, 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 center-of-mass 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 students to understand the underlying physics. Steady precession of a spinning top (or gyroscope) can be described in a simple and more intuitive manner by reference to Fig. 1. Elementary 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 gravitational torque s MgH, which points in the y-direction. Since s dL=dt and L Ix, it is easy to show that X MgH=Ix), 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 MgH sin h. Any force through O, including the frictional 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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idly to the ground. Otherwise, a rapidly spinning top tends to precess slowly, at the lower frequency, while simultaneously precessing in small sub-loops at high frequency. The subloops grow in amplitude and decrease in frequency as the top slows down, arising from nutation of the top. That is, the inclination of the top varies periodically with time, according to the relation9 I1 d2 h MgH I1 X2 cos h I3 x3 Xsin h: dt2 (3)

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 xz-plane that is perpendicular to the spin axis.

that the moment of inertia I3 for rotation about the spin axis is usually smaller than the moment of inertia I1 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? I1 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 Lk I3 x X cos h I3 x3 , where x is the spin imparted to the top about the spin axis and x3 x X cos h. The component of Lk along the xaxis is Lx Lk sinh. The total angular momentum in the xdirection is therefore I3 x3 sinh I1 Xsinhcosh. 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 nd that MgH I3 x3 X I1 X2 cos h; (1)

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 Lz I1 X sin2 h I3 x3 cosh. The latter conditions determine xt and Xt at each time step for any given values of Lk and Lz. The particular solution of Eq. (3) given by Eq. (1) corresponds to steady precession 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 xed 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 tops center-ofmass.19,20 A component of that torque arises from the centripetal force F MR X2 , where R is the radius of the path followed by the center-of-mass. The centripetal force is provided 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.

which is quadratic in X and therefore yields two real solutions for X, provided that x > 2=I3 MgHI1 I3 cos h1=2 : (2)

The lower frequency solution (denoted X1 ) is the one usually described in elementary textbooks and is the one that is usually observed experimentally, while the higher frequency solution (denoted X2 ) is comparable to x3 . 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 =I3 x, 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 rap281 Am. J. Phys., Vol. 81, No. 4, April 2013

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. Rod Cross 281

Fig. 3. Details of a spinning top with a rounded bottom peg of radius A. Here, G denotes the center-of-mass 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.

Fig. 4. Experimental top constructed from a 76-mm diameter, 8-mm thick aluminum disk with a 60-mm 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.

If A is the radius at the bottom end and D is the distance QG in Fig. 3, then the torque s about the center-of-mass G is given by s MgD sin h MR X2 A D cos h. Consequently, MgD MR X2 A D cos h=sin h I3 x3 X Icm X2 cos h; (4) where Icm I1 MD A2 is the moment of inertia about the perpendicular axis through G. If the top rolls along the horizontal surface then r x R 0 X; (5)

where r A sin h is the perpendicular distance from the spin axis to the contact point P and R0 R D sin h is the radius of the spiral path traced out by the contact point, as indicated 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 0 then F 0 and the precession axis passes through G, as indicated 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 gyroscope without its gymbals) was constructed using an 8-mm thick aluminum disk of diameter 76 mm and mass 100.0 g. A 4-mm diameter, 60-mm long threaded steel rod of mass 5.8 g was inserted through a hole in the center-of-the disk and xed to the disk with a nut above and below the disk. The length of the peg at the bottom end was xed at either 17 or 27 mm in order to vary the height of the center-of-mass 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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of diameter 15 mm screwed onto the bottom end as indicated in Fig. 2. Results obtained by lming 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 lming at 300 fps with a Casio EX-F1 camera, viewing either from directly above the top or from the side in order to observe motion of the peg on the surface.21 Both views provided the same information on the spin angular velocity of the top x and the angular velocity of precession X. The tilt angle h with respect to the vertical was measured for convenience 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 dened in a rotating coordinate system attached to the top and rotating about the z-axis at angular velocity X. The moments of inertia are also dened in this rotating coordinate system so that they remain constant in time. The top precesses at angular velocity X about the z-axis, so the apparent spin recorded by a xed camera mounted above the top is x X.17 A camera rotating at angular velocity X around the z-axis to follow the top would record its spin as x. In this paper, most measurements of x were obtained by subtracting the measured value of X from the apparent spin recorded from the xed camera. Some measurements of x were also obtained by recording the rotation angle of the top only when the top reached a xed 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 revolutions, (b) the time to complete each successive precession revolution, 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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TABLE I. Parameters of the four tops. Top 1 2 3 4 A (mm) 0.1 0.1 7.5 17.4 M (g) 105 105 123 6.3 H (mm) 21.0 31.0 21.5 15.0 I3 (kgm2 7:23 105 7:23 10 7:27 105 1:12 106
5

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 low-frequency 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 31 s after completing 430 revolutions.

observing the top by eye. The motion was quite jerky, despite the fact that the apparent spin observed in the laboratory reference frame remained almost constant with time during any given precession cycle. Solutions of Eq. (3) show the same effect. That is, x 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

## I1 (kgm2 ) 8:48 105 1:39 104 9:11 105 2:56 106

Fig. 6. Motion of the upper end of Top 1, viewed from above, when the spin is initially small, showing the rst 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 7.2 s after completing 50 spin revolutions. A 300-fps 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].21 Rod Cross 283

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## Am. J. Phys., Vol. 81, No. 4, April 2013

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 t curves to the experimental data for h and R0 vs. time. The curve passing through the X data is the solution given by Eq. (4). Videos of the motion, taken at 300 fps, can be viewed in the online version of the paper or downloaded from the online supplement.21

top was slightly asymmetrical. The low-frequency precession 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 best-t 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 rx equal to R0 X within experimental error up to t 50 s. Beyond that time it was not possible to ascertain whether the top was rolling or sliding due to the relatively large percentage uctuations in both R0 and h as they approached zero. Beyond t 50 s the top appeared visually to roll around a vertical precession axis passing through or close to the center-of-mass 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 spin-rates is also relevant and of interest in its own right. A tippe top then behaves more like a regular top but the low center-of-mass 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 spin-rates, 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 spin-rates, the top was observed to precess at two different frequencies simultaneously. This behavior was particularly 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 2660:2 rad=s, measured in the laboratory reference frame. The spin
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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 10 . 284 Am. J. Phys., Vol. 81, No. 4, April 2013

decreased linearly to 11 rad/s over 12 s. Only the rst 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 center-of-mass at an initial rate X1 3060:2 rad=s and it simultaneously precessed at X2 2:460:2 rad=s about a vertical axis located near the outside edge of the 35-mm diameter top. The two precession frequencies are not simply the two solutions of Eq. (4) for this top, nor do they correspond to a low-frequency precession combined with a highfrequency nutation. The observed high-frequency precession corresponds to the low-frequency solution of Eq. (4) when R 0. In that case, Eq. (4) reduces to MgD I3 xX I3 Icm X cos h:
2

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(6)

For a tippe top, Icm is approximately equal to I3 so the second term on the right-hand-side of Eq. (6) can be ignored at low spin frequencies, giving X % MgD=I3 x. The precession frequency is then the standard textbook result but there are two unusual features for a tippe top. The rst is that D is negative because the center-of-mass is below the center-of-curvature. 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 2:4 mm, I3 from Table I, and x 26 30 4:0 rad=s gives X 29:3 rad=s, essentially as observed. Because the tippe top precessed at the higher frequency about an axis through its center-of-mass, the rolling condition is given from Eq. (5) by Ax DX or X=x 7:25 for this top. The observed ratio was X=x 7:560:7, consistent with visual and slow motion video observations that the tippe top rolled on the horizontal surface while its center-ofmass was rising. The observed low-frequency 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 counter-clockwise in the laboratory reference frame, precesses slowly along a 16-mm-radius circular path in a clockwise direction, and precesses rapidly around a small radius path in a counter-clockwise direction. The center of the peg is shown by dots at intervals of 0.02 s. The peg rotated slowly away from a vertical position 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.21 285 Am. J. Phys., Vol. 81, No. 4, April 2013

1:12 106 kg m2 , and Icm 1:14 106 kg m2 . The solutions were obtained by varying x to obtain a value of X2 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 low-frequency 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 useful and accurate check on the validity of Eq. (5), and also provided insights into the differences between the three different spins x, x3, and x X. Barger and Olsson9 quote an incorrect version of the rolling condition for a spinning top, effectively replacing x in Eq. (5) with x3. It is relatively common for authors to describe x3 as the spin of a top about its axis of symmetry, even though x3 cannot be measured or viewed directly in the laboratory.9,22 From a theoretical point of view, the components of the angular velocity vector of greatest interest are x1 X sin h and x3 x X cos h, as indicated in Fig. 1. Both components can be calculated from measurements of X, x, and h, which are the primary quantities of interest experimentally. The rolling condition for a top, such as the one shown in Fig. 3, can be determined either from the components x1 and x3 or from X and x, but not from x3 and X as assumed by Barger and Olsson in their Eq. (6-178). Confusion can easily arise because x and x3 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 R X, where R r A cos h. Spin on its own would cause P to rotate into the page at speed Ax. If the disk is rolling (without slipping) then P remains at rest and A x r A cos hX: (7)

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 after the peg touched the surface. A 300-fps video of the jumping tippe top can be viewed in the online version of the paper or downloaded from the online supplement.21

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 rst technique. As indicated  in Fig. 10(b), x reversed sign at t 0.82 s when h % 90 ; this 10 effect was rst observed and explained by Pliskin 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 indicates 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 previously, the rolling condition for the tippe top is satised if X=x 7:25. Apart from the fact that X was much larger than 7:25x when the top was spun at high speed on its shell, x was of the wrong sign for the rst 0.82 s to satisfy the rolling condition. Solutions of Eq. (6) are shown in Table II for conditions relevant to the results in Fig. 10 and with D 2:4 mm; I3
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The same result can be derived in terms of x1 and x3. The angular velocity of the disk has a component x3 x X cos h along the spin axis and a component x1 X sin h perpendicular to the spin axis. The x3 component would cause P to rotate into the page at speed Ax3 . The x1 component would cause P to rotate out of the page at speed H x1 , where H is the length of the peg. Since P remains at rest we have
TABLE II. Solutions of Eq. (6) for the conditions shown in Fig. 10. h x (rad/s) X1 (rad/s) X2 (rad/s) 8 3.5 32 230 50 2 51 225 87 0.5 728 194 110 1.83 121 178 130 2.7 70 166

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tal surface at speed v and angular velocity x, then v Rx at all times, even if v is decreasing with time. The rolling friction 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 distance S ahead of the center of the ball, as indicated in Fig. 12. In this case, the ball can roll with v Rx and with dv=dt Rd x=dt, consistent with F Mdv=dt and
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).

FR NS Idx=dt;

(9)

where I is the moment of inertia of the ball about an axis through its center-of-mass. Because N Mg we nd that the coefcient of rolling friction is given by l F MRS ; N I MR2 (10)

Ax X cos h H X sin h r X; which is the same as Eq. (7). B. Rolling vs. sliding

(8)

The rise in the center-of-mass 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 horizontal surface while they were rising. But rolling friction by itself does not account for the rise of the tops either. Consider 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 signicant problems. The rst 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 rolling friction, acting about the center-of-mass, 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 torque, 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 acting 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 R0 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 friction must be responsible for the rise of tops (tippe tops in particular11,14,15) and is why Crabtree7 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, concerned with the nature and origin of rolling friction.23,24 The explanation is illustrated in Fig. 12. If a spherical ball of mass M and radius R is rolling in a straight line on a horizon287 Am. J. Phys., Vol. 81, No. 4, April 2013

and that x can decrease with time despite the fact that F by itself would lead to an increase in xthe 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 deceleration of the center-of-mass along the spiral path, giving F 0.0013 N at t 0, which corresponds to l 0:0011. The coefcient 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 I3 7:27 105 kg m2 for Top 3 and dx=dt 0:48 rad=s2 averaged over the rst 50 s, the average torque on the top about the spin axis was 3:49 105 N m. To simplify the following calculation, we will assume that such a torque arises from an equivalent friction force FE 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 FE r FE A sin h. The data for x and h in Fig. 8 yields a time-averaged value FE \$ 0:03 N. Since Mg 1:21 N for Top 3, this value of FE, 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 FE acting about the centerof-mass of the top would be to decrease the tilt angle h at a rate d h=dt \$ FE H =I3 x \$ 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 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. Rod Cross 287

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VIII. CONCLUSION Four different spinning tops were investigated by lming their behavior with a high-speed video camera. Two of the tops had a sharply pointed peg, one had a 15-mm diameter spherical peg, and the last was a tippe top. All were found to precess at rates consistent with those expected for steady precession. A high-frequency precession was also observed for the tops with pointed ends, coinciding with the spin frequency at high spin-rates and most likely due to a small asymmetry in each top. The tops with a sharply pointed peg precessed about a vertical 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 center-of-mass. During that time, the center-of-mass 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 center-ofmass of a tippe top is usually attributed to sliding friction at the base of the top, but it was found that the center-of-mass 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. However, 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.14,15 When spun at high frequency, the tippe top was found to precess at a frequency close to the higher of the two available precession frequencies. 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 techniques. For example, what difference does it make if the horizontal surface is smooth or rough or lubricated? Is energy or angular momentum conserved when a top rises? What determines 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) 1

Electronic mail: cross@physics.usyd.edu.au C. M. Braams, On the inuence of friction on the motion of a top, Physica (Amsterdam) 18, 503514 (1952). 2 A. D. Fokker, The rising top, experimental evidence and theory, Physica 8, 591596 (1941). 3 A. D. Fokker, The tracks of tops pegs on the oor, Physica (Amsterdam) 18, 497502 (1952). 4 N. M. Hugenholtz, On tops rising by friction, Physica (Amsterdam) 18, 515527 (1952). 5 D. G. Parkyn, The Rising of Tops with Rounded Pegs, Physica (Amsterdam) 24, 313330 (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 Chelsea, 1967). 8 R. F. Deimel, Mechanics of the Gyroscope: The Dynamics of Rotation (Dover, New York, 1952). Rod Cross 288

V. Barger and M. Olsson, Classical Mechanics, A Modern Perspective, 2nd ed. (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1994). 10 W. A. Pliskin, The tippe top (topsy-turvy top), Am. J. Phys. 22, 2832 (1954). 11 R. J. Cohen, The tippe top revisited, Am. J. Phys. 45, 1217 (1977). 12 L. Stefanini, Behavior of a real top, Am. J. Phys. 47, 346350 (1979). 13 K. Schonhammer, Elementary theoretical description of the heavy symmetric top, Am. J. Phys. 66, 10031007 (1998). 14 C. G. Gray and B. G. Nickel, Constants of motion for nonslipping tippe tops and other tops with round pegs, Am. J. Phys. 68, 821828 (2000). 15 H. Soodak, A geometric theory of rapidly spinning tops, tippe tops, and footballs, Am. J. Phys. 70, 815828 (2002). 16 M. V. Berry and P. Shukla, Slow manifold and Hannay angle in the spinning top, Eur. J. Phys. 32, 115127 (2011). 17 D. Petrie, J. L. Hunt, and C. G. Gray, Does the Euler Disk slip during its motion? Am. J. Phys. 70, 10251028 (2002). 18 H. Caps, S. Dorbolo, S. Ponte, H. Croisier, and N. Vandewalle, Rolling and slipping motion of Eulers disk, Phys. Rev. E 69, 056610-16 (2004). 19 F. R. Zypman, Moments to remember - The conditions for equating torque and rate of change of angular momentum, Am. J. Phys. 58, 4143 (1990).

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R. Cross, The fall and bounce of pencils and other elongated objects, Am. J. Phys. 74, 2630 (2006). 21 See supplementary material at http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4776195 for some sample movies. 22 H. K. Moffatt and Y. Shimomura, Spinning eggsa paradox resolved, Nature, 416, 385386 (2002). 23 J. Witters and D. Duymelinck, Rolling and sliding resistive forces on balls moving on a at surface, Am. J. Phys. 54, 8083 (1986). 24 A. Domenech, T. Domenech, and J. Cebrian, Introduction to the study of rolling friction, Am. J. Phys. 55, 231235 (1987). 25 T. Mitsui, K. Aihara, C. Terayama, H. Kobayashi, and Y. Shimomura, Can a spinning egg really jump?, Proc. R. Soc. London, Ser. A 462, 28972905 (2006). 26 M. F. Maritz and W. F. D. Theron, Experimental verication of the motion of a loaded hoop, Am. J. Phys. 80, 594598 (2012). 27 R. Cross, Spinning eggs and ballerinas, Phys. Ed. (accepted). 28 R. Cross, Rolling motion of a ball spinning about a near-vertical axis, Phys. Teach. 50, 2527 (2012). 29 D. Featonby, Dare we teach tops? Phys. Ed. 45, 409420 (2010).

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