Today is International Top Spinning Day, created in 2003 by the Spinning Top & Yo-Yo Museum of Burlington, WI, to celebrate one of the oldest toys in the world. It always takes place on the second Wednesday of October.
The earliest known tops, constructed of clay, date back to around 3500 BC. Archaeologists discovered them in the ruins of the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). Certainly, children improvised with rocks, acorns and other found objects long before then.
In addition to providing entertainment, tops make excellent teaching tools. “The earth spins around a single axis, just as toy spinning tops and yo-yos do,” explains museum director Judith Schulz.
Tops demonstrate the “gyroscopic effect,” which employs inertia, gravity, momentum and centrifugal force. When a top is spun, it appears to stay upright. Eventually friction between the top and the surface it is spinning on slows the rotation, causing it to wobble before falling over.
Happy International Top Spinning Day!