Angular momentum

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In physics, angular momentum, moment of momentum, or rotational momentum[1][2] is a conserved vector quantity that can be used to describe the overall state of a physical system. The angular momentum L of a particle with respect to some point of origin is

where r is the particle's position from the origin, p = mv is its linear momentum, and × denotes the cross product.

The angular momentum of a system of particles (e.g. a rigid body) is the sum of angular momenta of the individual particles. For a rigid body rotating around an axis of symmetry (e.g. the fins of a ceiling fan), the angular momentum can be expressed as the product of the body's moment of inertia I (a measure of an object's resistance to changes in its rotation rate) and its angular velocity ω:

In this way, angular momentum is sometimes described as the rotational analog of linear momentum.

Angular momentum is conserved in a system where there is no net external torque, and its conservation helps explain many diverse phenomena. For example, the increase in rotational speed of a spinning figure skater as the skater's arms are contracted is a consequence of conservation of angular momentum. The very high rotational rates of neutron stars can also be explained in terms of angular momentum conservation. Moreover, angular momentum conservation has numerous applications in physics and engineering (e.g. the gyrocompass).


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