Free-falling body subject to air resistance

  1. If a free-falling body is not subject to air resistance, there is a linear relationship between v and t giving a line with constant slope (g) showing velocity increasing with time.

    If air resistance is taken into account, my guess is that acceleration will decrease until the terminal velocity is reached (i.e. where air resistance = weight of body) giving a curve with decreasing slope which flattens out to constant velocity.

    Is this correct or am I barking up the wrong tree? I made certain assumptions i.e that the body is heavy with a large surface area. I know that the curve for a feather would look different!
  2. jcsd
  3. HallsofIvy

    HallsofIvy 40,370
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Yes, that's correct. You can't be a whole lot more precise. For small objects, the air-resistance is reasonably close to being proportional to the speed: instead of f= -mg you have f= -mg- kv. For larger objects, such as your feather, it's closer to being proportional to v2: f= -mg+ kv2. (The difference in sign is to keep the air resistance upward. If a body is falling downward, v is negative but v2 is positive.)
  4. Many thanks for that
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