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!

Homework Help: Terminal Velocity & Mass

  1. Nov 26, 2012 #1
    If two people of different masses say 50kg and 100kg were to suddenly jump off a building , why would the person with more mass attain a higher terminal velocity? I thought mass was irrelevant. I missed 1 lesson on this in class but this part I don't understand properly. If they were the same shape would the person with mass 100kg still have a greater terminal velocity?

    Edit: A object reaches terminal velocity when the drag force is equal to the weight of the object; so am I right to say that W=mg comes into this and the person with more mass has more weight so more drag is needed to reach terminal velocity?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 26, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Weight is certainly a big determinant of terminal velocity. Think how fast an air-filled balloon reaches t.v. (and how slow it is) compared with a bowling ball of same size. Shape is also a factor: a teardrop-shaped object vs a parachute-shaped object of the same mass will have different terminal velocities.
  4. Nov 26, 2012 #3
    Mass is only irrelevant if the only force is gravity. When a drag force is also present, unless the drag force is directly proportional to mass, the terminal velocity will depend on mass.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook