Galileo Gravity Experiment

A long long long time ago a scientist named Galileo declared that without air resistance any two objects would fall at the same rate. People laughed at Galileo for that, among other things.  Anciently the Greek philosopher Aristotle had said heavier things fall faster than lighter things.  It made sense and until Galileo no one thought any more about it.

In 1589 the story goes that Galileo tried out his theory that objects fall at the same speed regardless of weight. Image by Theresa Knott, CC license.

Imagine a feather and a hammer. Which will hit the floor first? Imagine a piece of paper and a book. Which will hit the floor first? Easy. The hammer and the book will hit before the feather and the paper. True, true, they will indeed, unless you remove the air resistance.

On the moon, which has almost no air resistance, astronauts tried Galileo’s experiment. Here’s a video of what happened.

You can try your own experiment at home. Remember that paper and book? Get them out.

Here is a simple experiment that proves that objects do fall at the same rate if air resistance is taken out of the equation.  Galileo was right.

  1. Have one person hold the paper and one person hold the book. Drop them at the same time. Pay attention to what happens.
  2. Now place the paper on top of the book (make sure the book is at least as large as the paper). Now drop them both together. Observe what happened that time.
  3. Now answer the question why.

The paper doesn’t have less potential energy than the book, but it does have less mass, so the air affects the paper more. Remove the influence of the air and the paper falls at exactly the same rate as the book.

Additional Layers

  • Read more about Galileo. What other kooky things did he believe? And how did it get him into trouble?
  • Have the kids write about where they would go if they could travel into space and what they would see and discover.
  • Everything is impossible until it is proven to be true or until somebody does it. What impossible things have you dreamed about doing? Have a discussion about it with your kids.
  • Enter NASA’s zero gravity experiment design contest.

4 different experiments with magnets to do at home.

4 different experiments with magnets to do at home.

Try these activities and experiments on Pi Day (March 14th) or any time you are learning about pi.

Try these activities and experiments on Pi Day (March 14th) or any time you are learning about pi.

Here are some math practice games to play with dice.

Here are some math practice games to play with dice.

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One Response to Galileo Gravity Experiment

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