An apple falls from a tree, Does the moon move as a result?

In summary, the conversation discusses the effects of an apple falling from a tree on Earth and whether or not the moon would also be affected. It is argued that the center of mass of the Earth and moon system would not be affected by the falling apple, even if the tree trunk connecting the two masses were to be removed. This is due to the stable orbit of the two masses around a common center.
  • #1
Tom Hammer
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I am interested in the following thought experiment: an apple falls from a tree on Earth. Does the moon move (although slightly)? I can see an argument for it doing so—the center of mass of the Earth has moved slightly away from the moon, so the moon would feel a slightly smaller force and would be less attracted, thus moving away. Is this reasoning correct?
 
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  • #2
I think you should first ask if the Earth moves as a result. If so, what is the effect on the center of mass of the Earth/apple system?
 
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Likes russ_watters
  • #3
Tom Hammer said:
...the center of mass of the Earth has moved slightly...
Um, no. The apple falls toward Earth and the Earth falls toward the apple. The center of mass does not move at all.

You have three masses here. Let's assume a dumbbell-shaped object consisting of 2 spherical masses of 1 metric kiloton each, connected by a 1 meter rod of negligible mass. This represents the apple separated from the Earth by the tree trunk. A third spherical mass of 2 kilotons is some distance away, say 1 km. This represents the moon. These two 2-kt masses (the dumbbell and the bigger sphere) are in a stable orbit around a common center exactly midway between the center of mass of each.

Now, remove the rod. The two 1 kt masses will fall toward one another but their center of mass does not change, so the orbit does not change and the other 2 kt mass remains unperturbed.

Such a system would impose a tidal force on the dumbbell so that it would want to orient itself with the rod pointing at the common orbital center, but even taking this into account, breaking the rod would still not affect the "moon" mass. The two masses falling toward one another will simply not fall directly toward one another, ending up as a single object with a slight spin, but even then their center of mass remains unchanged in its orbit relative to the large mass 1km away.
 

Related to An apple falls from a tree, Does the moon move as a result?

1. Why does an apple fall from a tree?

The apple falls from the tree due to the force of gravity. The Earth's mass creates a gravitational pull on all objects, causing them to fall towards the ground.

2. Does the moon move as a result of an apple falling from a tree?

No, the moon does not move as a direct result of an apple falling from a tree. The force of gravity between the Earth and the moon is much stronger than the force of gravity between the Earth and the apple, so the moon's orbit is not affected by the apple's fall.

3. Can the moon's gravitational pull affect an apple falling from a tree?

Yes, the moon's gravitational pull can have a very small effect on the apple's fall. However, this effect is so minuscule that it is not noticeable to the human eye.

4. Is there a connection between the apple falling from a tree and the moon's phases?

No, there is no direct connection between the apple falling from a tree and the moon's phases. The moon's phases are caused by its position relative to the sun, not by an apple falling from a tree.

5. Can an apple falling from a tree affect the moon's orbit?

No, an apple falling from a tree does not have enough mass or force to affect the moon's orbit. The moon's orbit is primarily determined by the gravitational pull of the Earth and other celestial bodies.

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