5.3: Angular Momentum In Three Dimensions


Conservation of angular momentum produces some surprising phenomena when extended to three dimensions. Try the following experiment, for example. Take off your shoe, and toss it in to the air, making it spin along its long (toe-to-heel) axis. You should observe a nice steady pattern of rotation. The same happens when you spin the shoe about its shortest (top-to-bottom) axis. But something unexpected happens when you spin it about its third (left-to-right) axis, which is intermediate in length between the other two. Instead of a steady pattern of rotation, you will observe something more complicated, with the shoe changing its orientation with respect to the rotation axis.