Science: Fly's Instruments

Many important flight instruments are built around spinning gyroscopes, whose "rigidity in space" makes them try to keep pointing in a fixed direction. An instrument hitched to one or more of these gyros can tell how much the airplane is turning or canting, almost as if it were hitched to space itself. Similar gyros steer torpedoes and airborne guided missiles.

For most turn-sensing purposes, gyros work well enough, but they have serious faults. Neither the bearings on which they spin nor the gimbals on which they are suspended can be made entirely frictionless, and...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!