They’ve caught the fancy of kids across the world and looks like they aren’t going anywhere soon. They’re fidget spinners- the latest craze in town! Kids of all ages from the 8 to 10 year olds to the tweens and young teens, everyone is crazy about this new must-have toy.
Fidget spinners were originally created as a therapeutic, stress-relieving tool for children diagnosed with autism, ADHD and anxiety-related disorders. The toy supposedly helps these kids, who have trouble focusing, are plagued by undue stress or have a habit of nervous fidgeting, by acting as a release mechanism for their nervous energy or stress.
Fidget spinners are also supposed to be therapeutic for stressed-out office workers who might otherwise bite their nails down to the bone, or drive colleagues mad with endless pen-clicking.
Let’s face it. All human beings fidget. Whether it is playing with your hair or doodling while talking on the phone, biting your nails in a stressful situation, or moving your legs in a rhythmic motion while waiting outside the interviewer’s office, all of us fidget in one way or the other.
Fidget spinners work on the premise of diverting the brain’s attention from random, stressful, negative thoughts while increasing attention span or helping the brain to focus better on the task at hand. Fidgeting may prevent your mind from being occupied by obsessive and unhealthy thoughts, while allowing you to focus on positive tasks.
Some musicians even use the device to improve their motor skills before a performance.
That is the biological science behind the creation of the tool for nervous fidgeters.
However, fidget spinners have caught the imagination of normal school-children to such an extent that several schools across the world have banned them from classrooms. Parents of children with special needs are up in arms against the ban. Why ban a device which is extremely beneficial for special needs children just because other children have it purely as a form of enjoyment?
That apart, do you know that fidget spinners work on the basis of common laws of Physics? So, what is the physics behind fidget spinners? Read on to find out-
Fidget spinners consist of two or three prongs with a ball bearing in its centre circular pad. The spinner is held by this centre pad to put it into motion. The prongs too have ball bearings at the outer edges. The spinners come in various materials such as copper, brass, stainless steel, aluminium and plastic. The bearings may be ceramic, stainless steel, chrome or hybrid materials. Different bearings with various adjustments give varying spin time, vibration and sound, lending a unique and satisfying sensory experience.
The fidget spinner harnesses universal laws of Physics such as friction and how to overcome it, angular velocity, rotational kinematics and so many more.
At its heart, the fidget spinner demonstrates the magic of ball bearings and their role in reducing friction. Friction is defined as the force that resists the relative motion of solids. A fidget spinner uses the principles of Newton’s First Law of Motion and incorporates ball bearings to reduce friction, thus allowing the spinner to spin for a long time before coming to a stop. The central ball bearings act as the centre of gravity. The ball bearings at the outer edges of the prongs are there for balancing the weight.
When torque (or force) is applied to the outer prong, the ball bearings at the centre set the spinner into motion and it continues to spin for a long time due to the low friction.
That’s a simple explanation for the Physics behind fidget spinners. We can even delve deeper into the Physics part of it and calculate how fast the spinner can go, whether it can match the speed of sound and under what circumstances. But that’s for another day.
For now, let’s just enjoy the fidget spinner and the satisfying sensory stimulation it provides!