To those who study the progress of exact science, the common spinning top is a symbol of the labours and the perplexities of men who had successfully threaded the mazes of planetary motions. The mathematicians of the last age, searching through nature for problems worthy of their analysis, found in this toy of their youth, ample occupation for their highest mathematical powers.
No illustration of astronomical precession can be devised more perfect than that presented by a properly balanced top, but yet the motion of rotation has intricacies far exceeding those of the theory of precession.
James Clerk Maxwell, “On a Dynamical Top” (1857)
In ancient times, people much more familiar with ...