Revisiting Galileo's Hammer and Feather Experiment

In 1589 Galileo Galilei is said to have dropped two spheres of different masses from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate that both will hit the ground at the same time, disproving a millennia old Aristotlean view. You have heard this story many times, but there is no account by Galileo himself of such an experiment. Most historians accept that it was a thought experiment which did not actually take place.

(Wikimedia Foundation)

Galileo's thought experiment completely revolutionized the way we understand science. 

Put simply, this is how it would have happened.

1. With air resistance



2. if there is no air resistance

(from The Physics Classroom)

You may say it is all animation, "we want proof." 

Enter Prof Brian Cox. He visits the world's biggest vacuum chamber to see what happens to a heavy ball & a light feather. This video clip is from BBC's celebrated series Human Universe, episode 4.

And the fun doesn't end there. Even the astronauts couldn't resist the temptation. Here is a video clip from the NASA where you find astronaut David Scott doing it on moon. 

It doesn't end here. And then Galileo's story of craters on moon, the phases of Venus, the satellites of Jupiter, the imperfection of heavenly bodies, the heliocentrism...and of course the Papal order of  "abandoning completely... the opinion that the sun stands still at the center of the world and the earth moves, and henceforth not to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatever, either orally or in writing."

Which story of Galileo you wish to tell today?

Thumbnail image is from Janice Fung's Slideshare

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