When can we neglect air resistance?

This was supposed to be the shortest part of a warm up activity. It turned into a long discussion that revealed a lot of student misunderstandings.

The question was about whether we could ignore air resistance on a textbook being thrown in the air. We spent most of our time discussing the differences and similarities between the three items here:
IMG_0650

There were interesting comments about what factors influence the magnitude of air resistance. I was definitely leading the conversation, but it wasn't until a student mentioned acceleration that anyone was able to precisely explain why one fell differently from another. We eventually settled on making a comparison between gravity force and air resistance force and calculating acceleration to see how close it was to the acceleration of gravity.

One thought on “When can we neglect air resistance?

  1. One of my favorite questions. I was modeling field goals with a placekicker preservice teacher and we had to really work to get a realistic simulation. Tough to model without solving the differential equations, too.

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