Fidget spinners are everywhere but it is not the first time a spinning toy took over the world. Remember Yo-Yo? And what about an extremely old spinning top? All of those are fun to play with, but you have to keep spinning them. Is it possible to make them spin forever? Would they come to a stop even in a vacuum?
All of these toys stop spinning because of forces affecting them. Those are friction, gravity and air resistance. Removing all those should mean that they will spin forever, right? Let’s see if it is possible step by step.
If we take a normal spinning top and spin it on a table, it won’t take long for it to slow down to a point where it topples over. But let’s remove the friction. A magnetic levitation can do the job or so we think. Spinning the top in thin air would, most likely, make it spin for longer, but not forever, because eventually air resistance would make it stop.
Taking it one step further, we could remove the air – place the entire rig in a vacuum chamber. This removes pretty much all friction and all air resistance. But even here a maglev spinning top would eventually stop. It is because these magnetic fields produce a kind of friction in a form of eddy currents. They would brake spinning top quite effectively – its energetic spin would be over quicker than you think. So the last step would be to take the toy to space.
Here is a similar experiment, conducted by Cody’s Lab YouTube channel
There are no magnets (or at least you can place the spinning top far away from them), no air resistance, no gravity. So it must mean that a spinning top would spin forever? Well, again no. As empty as space is, it does have some forces – some particles there and there, radiation from the stars, gravity of some planets. It could not spin forever, but it would come close to it, actually. Meanwhile a fidget spinner would spin much shorter, because of its internal friction in the bearing.
There is nothing permanent in this universe, really. And nothing comes easy. If you want to enjoy your spinning toy and you like the view of its movement you will have to keep applying force to it.
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