If we continue to follow the trail we blazed in linear motion, our next step is to consider what happens when we choose a system for which there are no external rotational impulses. For such a system, we can declare the angular momentum to be conserved before and after any event, however complicated the internal interactions might be.
In the linear case, we saw that the primary application of momentum conservation was related to collisions, because it was useful to ignore the complicated forces that come about between the colliding objects. What sorts of problems might angular momentum conservation be useful for solving? There are actually three basic varieties that commonly arise in classical mechanics, and we will look each one in turn.
Two uniform solid disks with small holes in their centers, are threaded onto the same frictionless vertical cylindrical rod. One of the disks lies flat on a frictionless horizontal surface and is rotating at a speed \(\omega_o\) around the rod, while the other disk is held at rest directly above it. Both disks are made from the same material, and have the same thickness, but the spinning disk has twice the radius of the stationary disk. The smaller disk is then dropped on top of the larger one, and after a short time the kinetic friction force between the two disks brings them both to the same rotational speed, which is a fraction of the larger disk's original speed. Find this fraction, and the fraction of the original kinetic energy still left the system afterward (it loses some from work done by kinetic friction).