Scientists Say: Gyroscope

This is a device that measures how an object is oriented in space


This is a gyroscope. Several disks rotate around each other and keep the device upright.

LucasVB/Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Gyroscope (noun, “J-EYE-roh-scope”)

This is a device that measures the three-dimensional position of something in space. A gyroscope in an object can detect whether the object is pointing up, down or to the side. Usually, a gyroscope is made of a wheel or disk that rotates around another disk or axis. The rotation of the disks measures both the orientation of the gyroscope itself and how fast it is turning in one direction or another.

Gyroscopes serve many purposes. They can help keep satellites and spacecrafts pointed in one direction. And they’re used in special cameras to keep the lens steady as the person behind it walks, drives or runs. But there’s probably a gyroscope near you right now. Smartphones have gyroscopes. They are used to orient the phone’s screen, monitor your steps and detect when you’ve dropped your phone. 

In a sentence

Scientists popped a gyroscope into the mouthguards of athletes to learn about what causes concussions. 

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.