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The World’s Largest Vacuum Chamber Settles an Old Question

  1. Aug 15, 2016 #1

    Physics Footnotes

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    Recently I came across an excellent video that brings to life an age-old physics teaching theme...

    The world’s largest vacuum chamber is NASA’s Space Power Facility in Ohio, pictured below. They remove around 30 tons of air from the chamber in order to test equipment during in-space conditions.


    But in this video the facility is being borrowed to settle an old question about a bowling ball and a feather. It’s one thing to hear it from a teacher or read about it in a textbook; it’s quite another to see it for yourself.

    It's only a few minutes long, so I thoroughly recommend watching and bookmarking it!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2016 #2

    Andy Resnick

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    Great video, but the phrase "to settle an old question" (from the website) irritates me, since it gives an impression that until this video existed, there was no evidence.
  4. Aug 15, 2016 #3
    The perpetual dumbing down more than just irritates me but; those feathers falling that far & just sitting next to each other like that is a meditative experience.

  5. Aug 15, 2016 #4


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    Apollo 15 did this experiment on the moon in 1971:


    From the link: "...a result predicted by well-established theory, but a result nonetheless reassuring considering both the number of viewers that witnessed the experiment and the fact that the homeward journey was based critically on the validity of the particular theory being tested."
  6. Aug 15, 2016 #5


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    I agree, that it's a great video. Science in action!

    But Brian Cox was only 3 ½ years old when NASA did this experiment, so I guess he may not have remembered...

    Doh! You beat me to it.

    August 2, 1971​
  7. Aug 15, 2016 #6


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    I shudder if I think of the number viewers who now conclude that in vacuum a bowling ball falls just as slowly as a feather does in air ...
  8. Aug 15, 2016 #7


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    And if the crackpots mix this theory with; "Dude, scientists now say you can have 'negative temperature'. Since bowling balls fall slower in a vacuum, I bet if we created a 'negative vacuum', we could invent anti-gravity. Yo, I'm gonna write me a paper."
  9. Aug 15, 2016 #8


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    I'm getting cold. Or old, not sure which falls faster. Thread is closed before I get older/colder... :smile:
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