Posted in Science & Nature

## Hammer And Feather

What would happen if you dropped a 1kg ball and a 10kg ball at the same time from a high building? Most people would think that the 10kg ball would obviously fall faster and thus hit the ground faster, but the truth is they would fall at exactly the same time. The reason for this is that the force that accelerates a falling object is gravity, which on Earth is constant at 9.81ms-2. This means that no matter how heavy the object is, they will always accelerate by 9.81 metres per second per second. This was hypothesised by Galileo Galilei, who came up with the thought experiment of dropping two balls of different mass from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (there is debate as to whether he actually performed the experiment). The theory was later solidified by a certain Isaac Newton, who devised the laws of universal gravitation and the three laws of motion.

However, if the two balls were dropped from an extremely high place, they may land at different times as mass affects the terminal velocity – when the force of gravity equals the force of drag caused by air resistance, leading to a constant velocity. A heavier object will keep accelerating to a greater velocity than a lighter object, which would have reached terminal velocity before the heavier object.

One place where this will not happen is in a vacuum where there is no drag force. To prove that the hypothesis that two objects of different masses will fall at the same time in the absence of air resistance, Commander David Scott of the Apollo 15 moon mission took a hammer and a feather with him. Once he landed on the moon, he dropped the hammer and feather in front of a live camera, showing that the two landed at exactly the same time. He thus proved that Galileo’s conclusion from two hundred years ago was in fact correct.