# Elevator free fall

blueblast
Hi guys,

I know this is a really simple question, but I'm just making sure I have this concept down:

Scenario 1. An elevator accelerates down at 9.8m/s^2.
Scenario 2. The elevator cable is cut.

If someone is inside an elevator, scenarios 1 and 2 would feel exactly the same to them, correct?

Thanks,

blueblast

jbriggs444
Homework Helper
Scenario 1. An elevator accelerates down at 9.8m/s^2.
Scenario 2. The elevator cable is cut.

If someone is inside an elevator, scenarios 1 and 2 would feel exactly the same to them, correct?
Assuming no other forces on the elevator aside from the cables and the Earth's gravity then you are correct.

If the elevator accelerates downward at 9.8 m/s^2 then it must be getting no support from its cables. Whether this is because the cables go slack or because they have been cut is pretty much irrelevant.

Scenario 1. An elevator accelerates down at 9.8m/s^2.
Scenario 2. The elevator cable is cut.
Is the 9.8m/s2 plus gravity, because if the cable is cut it gets 9.8m/s2 acceleration, anyway... because if you accelerate an elevator at 9.8m/s2 in space would be the same as cutting the cable on Earth.

Nugatory
Mentor
Is the 9.8m/s2 plus gravity, because if the cable is cut it gets 9.8m/s2 acceleration, anyway... because if you accelerate an elevator at 9.8m/s2 in space would be the same as cutting the cable on Earth.
No. Cutting the cable on earth puts the elevator in free fall: objects inside the elevator will float weightless. Accelerating at 1g in space is the same as the elevator sitting still on the surface of the earth.

blueblast
So,

(normal force) - (force accelerating elevator down) - (gravity) = - (gravity)
?

jbriggs444
Homework Helper
(normal force) - (force accelerating elevator down) - (gravity) = - (gravity)
?
What normal force?
What force accelerating the elevator down, other than gravity?
And why have -gravity on both sides of the equality?

blueblast
The "force accelerating elevator down" is what is moving the elevator down at an acceleration of 9.8 m/s^2, while the cable is still attached.

I have gravity on both sides since I was comparison Scenario 1 and Scenario 2.

Am I understanding this concept completely wrong?

jbriggs444
Homework Helper
The "force accelerating elevator down" is what is moving the elevator down at an acceleration of 9.8 m/s^2, while the cable is still attached.
Gravity alone would make the elevator accelerate downward at 9.8 m/s^2. Are you saying that there is a second force in addition to gravity that is pulling the elevator downward at a total of 19.6 m/s^2?
Am I understanding this concept completely wrong?
It is not clear what question you are trying to ask yet.

Chestermiller
Mentor
So,

(normal force) - (force accelerating elevator down) - (gravity) = - (gravity)
?
Show us your free body diagram for this scenario.

blueblast
Okay, let me reiterate this whole thing:

So let's say an elevator is hanging by a cable. It is not accelerating. Although there is gravity, the cable supports the weight of the entire elevator(this part I know I'm right for sure). Now let's say this elevator was lowered at an acceleration of 9.8 m/s^2. Since this is the same acceleration as gravity(free fall), would this have the same effect as just cutting the cable of the elevator?

jbriggs444
Homework Helper
So let's say an elevator is hanging by a cable. It is not accelerating. Although there is gravity, the cable supports the weight of the entire elevator(this part I know I'm right for sure). Now let's say this elevator was lowered at an acceleration of 9.8 m/s^2. Since this is the same acceleration as gravity(free fall), would this have the same effect as just cutting the cable of the elevator?
As I said in #2, a slack cable (required to achieve this downward acceleration) and a cut cable have the same effect.

There is other "downward force" involved. And no unidentified "normal force" involved. However, if you want to toss in additional forces on the elevator that all sum to zero, that works too.

Last edited:
sophiecentaur
Gold Member
If someone is inside an elevator, scenarios 1 and 2 would feel exactly the same to them, correct?
Under free fall conditions, the elevator AND the person will be accelerating at the same rate. IF you just 'accelerate the elevator' out in space then the passenger would be left behind and end up against the ceiling of the box - just as if the elevator were suspended (upside down) on Earth. The passenger would not feel weightless.

blueblast
Okay, thanks everyone!