Galileo's Diluted Gravity

1. Oct 23, 2004

stallion

I am currently student teaching honors physics and while working on
free fall a student asked me a question I could not fully answer. We were
talking about Galileo's experiment using an incline plane and rolling balls
in order to show that objects undergo uniform acceleration. I then discussed
Galileo's thought experiment in which he tied a string to two stones with
the same shape but different masses in order to show that acceleration
is not proportional to mass. A student asked me how come,this was during
a soapbox derby activity he had done in another class, heavier cars rolled
down a hill faster than lighter ones. I was not sure how to answer that question. Is this due to rotational inertia??

Thank you

2. Oct 23, 2004

Staff Emeritus
The soapbox cars have to overcome the friction in their wheels (notice that the wheels are supplied by the organizers to equalize the friction burden). Galileo ignored other forces; that was his breakthrough, that had eluded previous thinkers. He was able to imagine the force of gravity separately from all the confounding forces and think up experiments in which it would be approximately freely exhibited.

3. Oct 23, 2004

da_willem

Air resistance for example does not depend on the mass of an object. So the same force acts on all the cars (assuming the same shape and velocity) independent of their mass. But this force wich opposes the motion of the cars has less effect on heavier cars, because of their greater inertia. So heaver cars are decelerated less by resistant forces thus acquiring a greater speed.

4. Oct 26, 2004

stallion

Thanks for the info.