A piece of paper falling faster than free fall

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Abstract

We report a simple experiment that clearly demonstrates a common error in the explanation of the classic experiment where a small piece of paper is put over a book and the system is let fall. This classic demonstration is used in introductory physics courses to show that after eliminating the friction force with the air, the piece of paper falls with acceleration g. To test if the paper falls behind the book in a nearly free fall motion or if it is dragged by the book, we designed a version of this experiment that includes a ball and a piece of paper over a book that is forced to fall using elastic cords. We recorded a video of our experiment using a high-speed video camera at 300 frames per second that shows that the book and the paper fall faster than the ball, which falls well behind the book with an acceleration approximately equal to g. Our experiment shows that the piece of paper is dragged behind the book and therefore the paper and book demonstration should not be used to show that all objects fall with acceleration g independently of their mass.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1245-1249
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Physics
Volume32
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes

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