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Take-home experiment

This interesting activity examines the effect of weight upon terminal velocity. Gather together some nested coffee filters. Leaving them in their original shape, measure the time it takes for one, two, three, four, and five nested filters to fall to the floor from the same height (roughly 2 m). (Note that, due to the way the filters are nested, drag is constant and only mass varies.) They obtain terminal velocity quite quickly, so find this velocity as a function of mass. Plot the terminal velocity v size 12{v} {} versus mass. Also plot v 2 size 12{v rSup { size 8{2} } } {} versus mass. Which of these relationships is more linear? What can you conclude from these graphs?

A terminal velocity

Find the terminal velocity of an 85-kg skydiver falling in a spread-eagle position.


At terminal velocity, F net = 0 size 12{F rSub { size 8{"net"} } =0} {} . Thus the drag force on the skydiver must equal the force of gravity (the person’s weight). Using the equation of drag force, we find mg = 1 2 ρCAv 2 size 12{ ital "mg"=0 "." 5ρ ital "CAv" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} .

Thus the terminal velocity v t size 12{v rSub { size 8{t} } } {} can be written as

v t = 2 mg ρCA . size 12{v= sqrt { { {2 ital "mg"} over {ρ ital "CA"} } } } {}


All quantities are known except the person’s projected area. This is an adult (82 kg) falling spread eagle. We can estimate the frontal area as

A = ( 2 m ) ( 0 . 35 m ) = 0 . 70 m 2 . size 12{2`m times `0 "." "35"`m=0 "." "70"`m rSup { size 8{2} } } {}

Using our equation for v t size 12{v rSub { size 8{t} } } {} , we find that

v t = 2 ( 85 kg ) ( 9.80 m/s 2 ) ( 1.21 kg/m 3 ) ( 1.0 ) ( 0.70 m 2 ) = 44 m/s.


This result is consistent with the value for v t size 12{v rSub { size 8{t} } } {} mentioned earlier. The 75-kg skydiver going feet first had a v = 98 m / s size 12{v="94"`m/s} {} . He weighed less but had a smaller frontal area and so a smaller drag due to the air.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

The size of the object that is falling through air presents another interesting application of air drag. If you fall from a 5-m high branch of a tree, you will likely get hurt—possibly fracturing a bone. However, a small squirrel does this all the time, without getting hurt. You don’t reach a terminal velocity in such a short distance, but the squirrel does.

The following interesting quote on animal size and terminal velocity is from a 1928 essay by a British biologist, J.B.S. Haldane, titled “On Being the Right Size.”

To the mouse and any smaller animal, [gravity] presents practically no dangers. You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away, provided that the ground is fairly soft. A rat is killed, a man is broken, and a horse splashes. For the resistance presented to movement by the air is proportional to the surface of the moving object. Divide an animal’s length, breadth, and height each by ten; its weight is reduced to a thousandth, but its surface only to a hundredth. So the resistance to falling in the case of the small animal is relatively ten times greater than the driving force.

The above quadratic dependence of air drag upon velocity does not hold if the object is very small, is going very slow, or is in a denser medium than air. Then we find that the drag force is proportional just to the velocity. This relationship is given by Stokes’ law    , which states that

F s = 6 πrηv , size 12{F rSub { size 8{s} } =6πrηv} {}

where r is the radius of the object, η is the viscosity of the fluid, and v is the object’s velocity.

Questions & Answers

Why is the sky blue...?
Star Reply
It's filtered light from the 2 forms of radiation emitted from the sun. It's mainly filtered UV rays. There's a theory titled Scatter Theory that covers this topic
A heating coil of resistance 30π is connected to a 240v supply for 5min to boil a quantity of water in a vessel of heat capacity 200jk. If the initial temperature of water is 20°c and it specific heat capacity is 4200jkgk calculate the mass of water in a vessel
fasawe Reply
A thin equi convex lens is placed on a horizontal plane mirror and a pin held 20 cm vertically above the lens concise in position with its own image the space between the undersurface of d lens and the mirror is filled with water (refractive index =1•33)and then to concise with d image d pin has to
Azummiri Reply
Be raised until its distance from d lens is 27cm find d radius of curvature
what happens when a nuclear bomb and atom bomb bomb explode add the same time near each other
FlAsH Reply
A monkey throws a coconut straight upwards from a coconut tree with a velocity of 10 ms-1. The coconut tree is 30 m high. Calculate the maximum height of the coconut from the top of the coconut tree? Can someone answer my question
Fatinizzah Reply
v2 =u2 - 2gh 02 =10x10 - 2x9.8xh h = 100 ÷ 19.6 answer = 30 - h.
why is the north side is always referring to n side of magnetic
sam Reply
who is a nurse
Chilekwa Reply
A nurse is a person who takes care of the sick
a nurse is also like an assistant to the doctor
explain me wheatstone bridge
Malik Reply
good app
Wheatstone bridge is an instrument used to measure an unknown electrical resistance by balancing two legs of a bridge circuit, one leg of which includes the unknown component.
Rockwell Software is Rockwell Automation’s "Retro Encabulator". Now, basically the only new principle involved is that instead of power being generated by the relative motion of conductors and fluxes, it’s produced by the modial interaction of magneto-reluctance and capacitive diractance. The origin
what refractive index
Adjah Reply
write a comprehensive note on primary colours
Harrison Reply
relationship between refractive index, angle of minimum deviation and angle of prism
Who knows the formula for binding energy,and what each variable or notation stands for?
Agina Reply
1. A black thermocouple measures the temperature in the chamber with black walls.if the air around the thermocouple is 200 C,the walls are at 1000 C,and the heat transfer constant is 15.compute the temperature gradient
Tikiso Reply
what is the relationship between G and g
Olaiya Reply
G is the u. constant, as g stands for grav, accelerate at a discreet point
Is that all about it?
pls explain in details
G is a universal constant
g stands for the gravitational acceleration point. hope this helps you.
balloon TD is at a gravitational acceleration at a specific point
I'm sorry this doesn't take dictation very well.
Can anyone explain the Hooke's law of elasticity?
Olaiya Reply
extension of a spring is proportional to the force applied so long as the force applied does not exceed the springs capacity according to my textbook
does this help?
Yes, thanks
so any solid can be compressed how compressed is dependent upon how much force is applied F=deltaL
sorry, the equation is F=KdeltaL delta is the triangle symbol and L is length so the change in length is proportional to amount of Force applied I believe that is what Hookes law means. anyone catch any mistakes here please correct me :)
I think it is used only for solids and not liquids, isn't it?
basically as long as you dont exceed the elastic limit the object should return to it original form but if you exceed this limit the object will not return to original shape as it will break
Thanks for the explanation
yh, liquids don't apply here, that should be viscosity
hope it helps 😅
also, an object doesnt have to break necessarily, but it will have a new form :)
yeah, I think it is for solids but maybe there is a variation for liquids? that I am not sure of
good luck!
aplease i need a help on spcific latent heat of vibrations
specific latent heat of vaporisation
how many kilometers makes a mile
Margaret Reply
about 1.6 kilometres.
near about 1.67 kilometers
equal to 1.609344 kilometers.
Practice Key Terms 2

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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