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Acceleration Due to Gravity

Understand and state acceleration due to gravity and the value of g

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The Art of Falling

The Art of Falling

Credit: U.S. Army
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/2990718614/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

After jumping out of a plane that is flying 10,000 feet above the Earth's surface, this skydiver reached speeds of up to 120 miles per hour before deploying his parachute. Within a matter of seconds the increased surface area reduced his velocity to safe enough levels for landing. By using Newton?s 2nd law, you can easily calculate his landing speed.

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Credit: wales_gibbons
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9678460@N07/7462872938
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Skydivers free fall before deploying their parachutes [Figure2]

  • Since the early 1100s, people have been using parachutes to skydive. Even though they didn?t know it, they were using the most basic principles of physics. By using a parachute, the effective surface area of the falling body is increased allowing for more air to be ?caught?.
  • Effective parachutes will expose a skydiver to 3-4 g's of negative acceleration when the parachute is deployed. This causes the skydiver?s velocity to go from 120 miles per hour to roughly only 18 miles per hour in a matter of seconds. With the forces balanced, the skydiver will be able to safely land.

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Using the information provided above, answer the following questions.

  1. When the skydiver is falling at a constant velocity after the parachute is open, what is their acceleration?
  2. Explain why it is not advised to use a parachute that is as big as possible, assuming you could safely deploy it?
  3. At what point in the skydiving experience is the acceleration due to gravity equal to zero?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: U.S. Army; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/2990718614/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: wales_gibbons; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9678460@N07/7462872938; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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