Gravity - What Goes Up, Must Come Down

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1 Gravity - What Goes Up, Must Come Down Source: Sci-ber Text with the Utah State Office of Education Jump up in the air and you will fall back down again. Try to stay up above the ground. Pretend you are a superhero getting ready to save the world from evil. Flap your arms a little and see if it helps. Can t do it? That s because of an invisible force called gravity. You can t see it, but it is a powerful force that affects all things on Earth. The force of gravity Earth s gravity is strong and pulls objects without touching them. As you stand still or run as fast as you can, Earth s gravity is pulling down on you all the time. Skyscrapers, elephants, apples and even you cannot get away from Earth s gravity. Even when you jump up into the air and you are not touching the ground, Earth s gravity will pull you back! 1

2 Forces that work against gravity Gravity is always working. It is a constant force, which means it never stops. Before a bird or an airplane or even a superhero can fly, they must use other forces to help them overcome the gravity. Lifting is a force that overcomes the pull of gravity. The measurement of the force it takes to work against gravity is called weight. You can measure weight on a scale. If you try to pick up heavy objects, you might need to be as strong as a superhero to lift them. Heavier objects need to have a strong force to lift them. Try lifting a bag of cement and see if it s easy or hard. Can you get it to move, even when you pretend to be a superhero? Try something lighter, like a book. You can lift lighter objects without huffing and puffing. But be careful! Gravity is very strong, and once you stop lifting, gravity will pull the object back to the ground no matter how heavy or light it may be. Make sure your feet are not in gravity s path! Even superheroes can smash their toes! For many years, people thought that heavier objects would 2

3 fall faster than lighter ones. Galileo, a famous scientist, asked: Do all objects fall at the same speed? A legend says that he dropped two different sized iron cannon balls off the Tower of Pisa. To his surprise, they both reached the ground at the same time. This answered his question. It also showed the importance of using experiments to find out answers to questions. Air resistance, however, is another force that can work against the force of gravity. Very light objects, such as feathers or seeds, fall slowly or even float through the air. So why don t they crash to the ground? They are so light that the air can hold them up and work against the force of gravity. That s the reason that unlike the cannon balls, a rock and a feather will not fall and hit the ground at the same speed. Air slows down all falling objects on Earth. If, however, you were to take lots of feathers and wad them into a large ball and drop it with the rock, they would fall at the same rate. Gravity pulls all objects toward the center of Earth no matter how much they weigh. Air can slow an object, but it can t stop gravity. 3

4 The effects of gravity on the motion of an object When objects are moving, gravity still pulls them toward Earth. If you drop a softball straight down, gravity will pull it straight down to the ground. What happens when you throw the same ball to your friend? The ball doesn t drop straight down. Instead, it moves forward in a curved path. A curve line is a part of a circle. When you let go of the ball it continues moving forward. But invisible gravity begins to use its force as soon as you throw the ball and pulls the ball downward the same time it zooms to your friend. Because of the path forward and the work of gravity, the ball follows a curved path to the ground. Have you ever ridden your bike down a hill and felt like you were flying? You almost feel like a superhero ready to take off and fight the enemies of Earth. Your secret to going so fast is the force of gravity pulling you. It pulls as you travel and helps you go faster and faster. Gravity adds to your speed as you zoom down. The 4

6 Glossary force: a push or pull gravity: the force that pulls objects on or near the earth toward its surface weight: the measure of the force of gravity upon an object 6

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