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Galileo Drops the Ball - Virtual Experiment

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Galileo Drops the Ball

Galileo drops the ball

Why is Galileo wearing a space suit? Click on the picture to find out.

In around 1590 Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) climbed up the Leaning Tower of Pisa and dropped some balls to the ground. Two balls of different masses, but of similar shape and density that were released together hit the ground at the same time. Until then it was commonly believed that heavy things fall faster than light things. Many people still believe this, and casual observation of everyday phenomena often does tend to confirm this view.

If you drop a brick and a feather at the same time the brick will probably hit the ground first. But this is because of differences in the amount of friction between these objects and the air around them, not because their masses are different. If there were no air, the feather and the brick would hit the ground at the same time.

Galileo’s discovery is important in understanding how parachutes work. They fall slowly through the air because of friction. Find out more about this in Adventures in Skydiving.


 

Digging Deeper

 

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air resistance and friction between solid objects

 

Click on the image to the left to try Galileo’s experiment for yourself.

Find out more about Galileo Galilei.


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