# Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Helicopter Physics Series - #4 They're Gyroscopes - Smarter Every Day 48

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Hey it's me Destin. Welcome to Smarter Every Day. So you know you're in trouble

when you have to break out the tinker toys to explain a concept. What are you gonna build?

(son) Tinker toy ducks, scrod and rolls over your ham. [??]

Good idea. What are you gonna do? (Daughter) The sunset. The sunset.

OK. So we're gonna start building. Go.

Alright here at Smarter Every Day we're right in the middle of a series on how helicopters work, and if you

recall, I told you at the beginning that helicopters are very very complicated.

So here's the tinker toy helicopter that I just made, and if you recall from the other videos,

I told you that as the blades on the helicopter spin around

they have the ability to change pitch as they go around

in the rotor disc. Now this is called cyclic pitch, and if you don't

understand this concept you need to go watch this remedial video so you can remind yourself

about what I'm talking about. So let's assume that we fully understand how that works.

Here's the question. If I have a helicopter and I

simply want to make a manouver and I want to tilt the helicopter up and forward just like

this, how do we change the pitch in the rotor disc. So

to me it's logical that I would want to increase the lift on the back of the

rotor disc, so what that would do is that would cause more lift here which would

cause it to tilt forward. This makes sense to me. Does it make sense to you?

Well here's the deal. You're absolutely wrong if it does. This is

why. You actually provide more lift on the side

of the helicopter and that will tilt the helicopter forward.

When I first figured this out, it blew my mind because it just did not make

intuitive sense, but it has something to do with this little gadget right here.

You may have seen one before. It's called a gyroscope.

So what does this have to do with helicopters. If you think about it,

it's a big mass spinning very fast. Look at

a helicopter. What do we have on top? It's a big mass,

spinning very fast. So when the rotors are aligned with the

helicopter body, if I wanted to pitch the helicopter body

forward like so, I would expect us to

be in phase right here, and I would expect to take less of a bite with this rotor and and more of a

bite with this rotor to rock it over is that what?.. (Carl) That's not the case.

It does seem like that would be, but due to gyroscopic

precession, any force on a spinning disc, which these blades

do act as a disc, takes effect over a 90 degree

phase. So if we give it a force here, to push down

or up to roll the helicopter forward, it'll actually take effect 90 degrees

later, and roll the helicoper sideways. So in order to roll it forward

we give the pitch when it's 90 degrees away

from .. (Destin) Oh, so it's like.. It's almost like predicting the future

or something like that. (Carl) Something like that. (Destin) So, if I wanted to rock the helicopter

forward, I would take less of a bite when I'm 90 degrees out of phase

and more of a bite over there, and that would do it? (Carl) Yep, so the

blade here pulls up. This one pushes down, and it takes effect 90 degrees

later when it's parallel with the machine, and the machine will rock, like so.

Yeah. I'm not getting it either.

In fact, I got a one-on-one explanation from an ex-pilot at the

Smithsonian and I still didn't get it. To control to

90 degrees in front, on the swashplate. (Destin) Like everything on

Smarter Every Day, I finally understood this when I made an experiment for myself.

Alright so Carl and I have setup a really super high tech experiment involving

bicycle wheels. Hey the Wright brothers did it. It's good enough for me if it's good enough for them.

And we have a camera aligned along a force

application device, which is a metal strip,

and do you want to explain what we've got going on here? (Carl) Alright, we're going to (Destin) Wait!

I'm better, go ahead. (Carl) We're going

to apply a force, straight up, and as you can see here

the tyre rotates in the same plane as we're moving this bar.

But, when it's spinning, it's going to be different. (Destin) Let's..Let's just check it out.

Here we go. I used to play with my mom's exercise

machine when I was like 5, so I'm highly qualified to apply angular momentum

here.

Angular momentum applied! Hit the brakes.

(Carl) Trying to control this thing. (Destin)Alright. (Carl) So now we're

gonna do the same test again. We're gonna apply force straight up, here.

And.. it rotates, 90 degrees from where we apply the force.

(Destin) Alright this principle is called gyros.. [cough] gyroscopic

precession, and that's basically the forces applied

orthogonal to the plane of rotation, it acts 90 degrees out of phase to that

applied force. I think it's pretty interesting. So, I have a plane of rotation

here of the force, but it actually acts in this plane.

And so if you look at the horizon that the camera is looking at as he pushes up, it rotates

opposite of that. It's pretty cool! Anyway

that's it. That's why helicopter blades operate 90 degrees out of phase.

Anything you want to add? Besides the fact that I was kneeling in a horse biscuit

the entire time? Hey horse. What do you know about

gyroscopic precession? [silence] It's what I thought. [laugh]

So I realise this was one of the more complicated videos and I hope you got it. If you would, leave me some

comments and let me know, so I can figure out how to best explain things in the future.

Also, if you're interested, subscribe because next week we're gonna talk about the

helicopter speed limit, and it's not because of the FAA. It's physics.

I'm Destin. You're getting Smarter Every Day.

[ Captions by Andrew Jackson ]