Friday, July 25, 2008

I have only one ball, but it's momentous!

As a fallback to the gyroscopic hard disc idea, several people have suggested I try using a PowerBall gyroscopic hand exerciser.  I got one of these little torture tools too see how it works.  Basically, it's a caged gyro that is free to rotate in two of the three axes; the proper hand motion pumps momentum into the ball and spins it up.

My initial idea was to spin up the ball and then restrict the gyro to one rotational axis to see if it would generate enough force to precess the operator (me).  Unfortunately, the ball requires constant energy input or it quickly slows down, and the time needed  to cage one axis (using a couple of threaded bolts) is enough for it to lose a good deal of its momentum.  So that idea is out.

However, the forces and motions involved are sufficiently interesting that it's probably worth taking it onto the flight and seeing what happens when you spin it up in freefall.  So it's going on the list of experiments I'm trying to get approved.

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