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precessional motion

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A form of motion that occurs when a torque is applied to a rotating body in such a way that it tends to change the direction of its axis of rotation. It arises because the resultant of the angular velocity of rotation and the increment of angular velocity produced by the torque is an angular velocity about a new direction; this commonly changes the axis of the applied torque and leads to sustained rotation of the original axis of rotation.

A spinning top, the axis of which is not exactly vertical, has a torque acting on it as a result of gravity. Instead of falling over, the top precesses about a vertical line through the pivot. Precessional effects occur in atoms in magnetic fields.

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