How gravity and air resistance affect the motion of a falling object?


Gravity accelerates falling objects at a constant rate (on Earth, it's 9.8 m/s/s). However, in the presence of air, the air pushes against the falling object, and the faster it's falling then the more air is pushing against it. The point at which the air resistance equals the pull of gravity is called "terminal velocity." It varies by object depending on buoyancy. AnswerParty

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Physics Gravitation
Introductory physics

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to physics:

Physics – natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.

Terminal velocity

Terminal velocity is simply the fastest speed that a falling object can reach in a certain circumstance. Different objects have different terminal velocities.

The terminal velocity of a falling object is the velocity of the object when the sum of the drag force (Fd) and buoyancy equals the downward force of gravity (FG) acting on the object. Since the net force on the object is zero, the object has zero acceleration.


The gravity of Earth, denoted g, refers to the acceleration that the Earth imparts to objects on or near its surface. In SI units this acceleration is measured in meters per second squared (in symbols, m/s2 or m·s−2) or equivalently in newtons per kilogram (N/kg or N·kg−1). It has an approximate value of 9.81 m/s2, which means that, ignoring the effects of air resistance, the speed of an object falling freely near the Earth's surface will increase by about 9.81 metres (32.2 ft) per second every second. This quantity is sometimes referred to informally as little g (in contrast, the gravitational constant G is referred to as big G).

There is a direct relationship between gravitational acceleration and the downwards weight force experienced by objects on Earth, given by the equation ma = F (force = mass × acceleration). However, other factors such as the rotation of the Earth also contribute to the net acceleration.

Free fall

In Newtonian physics, free fall is any motion of a body where its weight is the only force acting upon it. In the context of general relativity where gravitation is reduced to a space-time curvature, a body in free fall has no force acting on it and it moves along a geodesic. The present article concerns itself with free fall in the Newtonian domain.

An object in the technical sense of free fall may not necessarily be falling down in the usual sense of the term. An object moving upwards would not normally be considered to be falling but if it is subject to the force of gravity only, it is said to be in free fall. The moon thus is in free fall.

Force Drag
Le Sage's theory of gravitation

Le Sage's theory of gravitation is a kinetic theory of gravity originally proposed by Nicolas Fatio de Duillier in 1690 and later by Georges-Louis Le Sage in 1748. The theory proposed a mechanical explanation for Newton's gravitational force in terms of streams of tiny unseen particles (which Le Sage called ultra-mundane corpuscles) impacting all material objects from all directions. According to this model, any two material bodies partially shield each other from the impinging corpuscles, resulting in a net imbalance in the pressure exerted by the impact of corpuscles on the bodies, tending to drive the bodies together. This mechanical explanation for gravity never gained widespread acceptance, although it continued to be studied occasionally by physicists until the beginning of the 20th century, by which time it was generally considered to be conclusively discredited.

In everyday usage, the mass of an object is often referred to as its weight though these are in fact different concepts and quantities. In scientific contexts, mass refers loosely to the amount of "matter" in an object (though "matter" may be difficult to define), whereas weight refers to the force experienced by an object due to gravity. In other words, an object with a mass of 1.0 kilogram will weigh 9.81 newtons (newton is the unit of force, while kilogram is the unit of mass) on Earth (its mass multiplied by the gravitational field strength). Its weight will be less on Mars (where gravity is weaker), more on Saturn, and negligible in space when far from any significant source of gravity, but it will always have the same mass.

Objects on the surface of the Earth have weight, although sometimes this weight is difficult to measure. An example is a small object floating in a pool of water, or even a dish of water, which does not appear to have weight since buoyed by the water, but is found to have its usual weight when it is added to water in a container which is entirely supported and weighed on a scale. Thus, the "weightless object" floating in water actually transfers its weight to the bottom of the container (where the pressure increases). Similarly, a balloon has mass but may appear to have no weight or even negative weight, due to buoyancy in air. However, in the case of buoyancy, the weight of the balloon and the gas inside it has merely been transferred to a large area of the Earth's surface (in fact the entire surface, eventually), making the weight difficult to measure. The weight of a flying airplane is similarly distributed to the ground, but does not disappear. If the airplane is in level flight, the same weight-force is distributed to the surface of the Earth as when the plane was on the runway, but spread over a larger area.

A set of dynamical equations describe the resultant trajectories when objects move owing to a constant gravitational force under normal Earth-bound conditions. For example, Newton's law of universal gravitation simplifies to F = mg, where m is the mass of the body. This assumption is reasonable for objects falling to earth over the relatively short vertical distances of our everyday experience, but is very much untrue over larger distances, such as spacecraft trajectories. Please note that in this article any resistance from air (drag) is neglected.


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