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A Penny can kill you! (And other physics myths)


bobbyburns

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We've all heard the rumor that a penny (dropped from the top of the Empire State Building, or any skyscraper) could kill you if you were an unlucky soul at the bottom. Unfortunately, that doesn't exactly work out. The solution is easy: get rid of air. But that's not practical.

So how fast would a penny actually fall? The answer is found when we consider the idea of terminal velocity; the point at which drag force equals the force of gravity. Although asymptotically approached, acceleration, at a point becomes negligible; the object will refuse to fall any faster. "Air friction" simply won't allow it.

As it turns out, the terminal velocity of a copper penny is under 100mph. You might get a nasty bruise, but you won't be dying anytime soon.

Another ill-informed myth is that Isaac Newton discovered gravity because an apple fell on his head. Sadly, that never occurred. He did, in fact, watch apples fall to the ground at his mother's farm, and was inspired by the downward motion of the apples. This simple observation led Newton to eventually "create" calculus, understand orbital motion of planets, among other fantastic discoveries.

Additionally, there's a misconception that Albert Einstein failed mathematics as a child! Einstein ended up doing very well in school. But what IS true is that Einstein started to talk very late in his "toddler-hood" at about four years old. Einstein, in general, was a very good student and briefly considered becoming a mathematician, until he realized he could study physics to a better degree.

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