It no seem like such a daunting question, however it constantly brings up an excellent discussions. If you drop a heavy object and also a short mass object from the same height at the same time, which will certainly hit the floor first? Let’s begin with some early ideas around falling objects. Aristotle’s Ideas around Falling Objects Aristotle <…>


If friend drop a hefty object and also a low mass object from the same height at the same time, which will hit the ground first?

Let's start with some at an early stage ideas around falling objects.

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Aristotle's Ideas about Falling Objects

Aristotle claimed that there room 4 elements: Earth, Wind, Water, Fire. Objects make of planet (like a rock) will want to go the facility of the universe (center the the Earth). Things made the fire want to walk to the ar where fire is. I guess this would certainly be the sunlight - or what up. Aristotle additionally said that a more heavier object will fall at a faster speed.

Of food he never ever did any experiments to test these ideas. Why would you do an experiment? There would be some experimental error and also so you really couldn't to trust anything you discovered out anyway. Experiment just ruin all the fun.

Common Ideas around Falling

If friend ask people about you, what will they say? i bet the will say one of the following answers:

Heaver objects autumn faster. If girlfriend drop a heavy and also light thing together, the heavy one will gain to the soil first.This is trick question. Ns remember in physics that every little thing falls the same. You can't trick me twice.

Why would people say the first answer? psychic that basically all concepts are based on something. Also if they are wrong, they should make some type of sense otherwise us would simply be crazy person. The idea the a hefty object falls faster does seem to agree through our everyday observations.

Try this. Take a baseball and also a ping pong ball and drop them together. That will most likely be closer 보다 you think but the more heavier baseball will certainly hit the floor first. Her initial thoughts would certainly be confirmed. Heavier things perform indeed loss faster.

Counter Examples

Here is the first classic example. This is a bowling ball and also a basketball dropped native the exact same height. Normally, I organize these two balls increase in a classroom and also ask student which will hit the soil first. I never actually drop them because dropping a bowling sphere on the floor from over your head might not be such a good idea. However, that does obtain the students excited that I could actually drop them.

This year, the students convinced me to in reality drop them. Us went outside so I can drop them in the grass. Right here are 2 videos that students recorded. Over there is a bonus experiment afterwards which ns will define bellow.

These 2 objects plainly have various mass but they loss with the very same acceleration. I guess ns should point out one more thing about falling objects. If you to be to measure the place of this balls together they fall, they execute not fall with a consistent speed. Instead, they loss with a continuous acceleration. The is to say that as they fall, the rate increases. For these 2 objects, they struggle the ground at the same time due to the fact that they both start from rest and also both have the exact same acceleration.

Here is an additional example the you can shot yourself. Take 2 sheets of level paper. They have the exact same mass, right? currently crumple one up into a ball and then drop both. Even though they have actually the exact same mass, the crumpled one will hit the soil first.

Here is a much better example. In this situation I have actually a crumpled up item of record and some kind of foam board. The paper has a fixed of 5 grams and also the board is 240 grams. Simply as a hint, that's a huge difference in mass. Yet which one fight the soil first? Yup, the item of paper. Awesome, right? and also then once I rotate the foam plank so the the slim side faces down, BOOM. They both fight the ground in ~ the same time.

So, what access time the soil first? Everything. Over you have the right to see it all. Both heavier and lighter points can fall faster. Clearly, friend can't simply say "heavier is faster".

Acceleration of fall Objects

Let's look at the case of a fallout’s bowling ball and also basket ball. This is a force diagram mirroring the 2 objects.


The bowling ball has a better mass so it also has a greater gravitational force. You can calculate this gravitational pressure as the product that the fixed (m) and the gravitational field (g). There is something rather that counts on the mass, the acceleration. If over there is just one force on an item then the complying with would be true (in one dimension):


Since both the acceleration and the only pressure depend top top mass, I deserve to write:


Heavier things have actually a greater gravitational force and heavier things have a lower acceleration. It turns out the these two results exactly publication to make falling objects have actually the exact same acceleration nevertheless of mass.

Air Resistance

Clearly, i didn't completely address all the issues above. If every objects have the same falling acceleration, then why did the crumpled up document hit the ground prior to the foam board? The trouble is that ns left off a pressure - the wait resistance force.

Here's another experiment. Placed your hand out the home window of a relocating car. What carry out you feel? You deserve to feel the waiting pushing against your hand. If the car drives faster, the air resistance force gets larger. If friend make her hand right into a fist instead of an open hand, the pressure decreases.

This wait resistance pressure is really simply the sum of the tiny results with your hand and also the air. It depends on the wait speed and also the size of the object.

Then what happens together you autumn both a foam board and also a crumpled piece of paper? at first, they have the same acceleration due to the fact that they both have a zero velocity which provides zero wait resistance force. However, after ~ some brief time the forces could look prefer this:


The foam board has actually a larger gravitational force but it also has a very large air resistance force. The net (total) pressure on the foam board will give it a smaller acceleration 보다 paper.

But what about the basketball and the bowling ball? Shouldn't they have different accelerations? Technically, yes. Permit me redraw the force diagrams for these 2 objects and also include waiting resistance.


For this objects, the gravitational force is huge in comparison come the wait resistance force. Essentially, that doesn't do much to change the fallout’s acceleration of these objects. Yet when does the matter? This is a difficult question. First, anything at a very low rate will have actually a greatly negligible waiting resistance and at high speed will have far-ranging air resistance. Here are some instances where you would NOT neglect air resistance:

A falling piece of paper or a feather.A falling human being at high speeds (a skies diver).A professionally thrown baseball (100 mph).A ping pong ball.Tiny rocks or gravy.

I know that doesn't fully answer the question around air resistance, but it offers you an idea of wherein to start. Yet it transforms out that there room many situations where a heavier object does certainly hit the ground prior to a lighter object (because of air resistance). Ns guess this is why Aristotle and many rather think this is constantly true.

Oh, Veritasium has actually a some great videos about falling objects. Right here are my favorite 3 videos with concerns to consider.


Rhett Allain is an associate professor that physics in ~ Southeastern Louisiana University. He enjoys teaching and also talking around physics. Periodically he takes points apart and can't placed them back together.

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