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...

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