1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

B Question about gravity, water and snow

  1. Jul 28, 2017 #1
    Suppose I fell from a mountain, which would hurt less:

    A) Falling on a very huge pile of powder snow or
    B) Falling on water

    It's a serious questions! Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 28, 2017 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Hi Rafael. I'm guessing that A would hurt less because snow (at least certain types of snow) typically has air trapped in it and is able to be compressed. It also doesn't present a sudden, drastic change in density like moving from air to water does. But that's mostly a guess on my part.
  4. Jul 30, 2017 #3

    Buzz Bloom

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Hi Rafael:

    I believe the answer depends on some unstated assumptions. The following are some examples.

    What do you mean by "fall off a mountain"? Is your fall off a cliff through the air, or are you sliding down a steep slope of the mountain? How high is the mountain, or more relevant, how far vertically do you fall? Can you control your orientation so that you fall with your body horizontal until you are near the water/snow (to minimize your velocity when you hit the water/snow), and then reorient your body so you enter the water/snow feet first with slightly bent knees (to minimize injuries)? What are you wearing? Assuming the fall itself does not cause serious injuries, you will likely end up deep in the water/snow, so what will you do to avoid drowning/suffocating in the water/snow? Perhaps you have a breathing device and an air supply with you. In that case, if you are in water, then perhaps you can swim to the surface and survive. If you are in snow, how will you get to the surface before your air supply is exhausted or you freeze to death?

    Good luck with your story.

  5. Jul 31, 2017 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    The recorded cases of people surviving falls from very great heights (a mile or more) generally involve snow, trees, glass ceilings or something similar to cushion the impact. None of those cases involve landing in water.

    The problem with landing in water is two-fold. First, water is largely incompressible. A high speed impact will involve very large accelerations. Second, after the impact renders you unconscious, water can drown you.

    The recorded cases of survival have typically involved a witnessed fall with prompt aid rendered.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted