If you ever find yourself in Las Vegas with nothing to do, $100 to burn, and gambling isn't your forte, head over to the Stratosphere Casino/tower.
At the Stratosphere, you can experience the thrill of free fall as you descend 108 floors to the ground. After taking the elevator to the top of the building, you receive a brief "safety lesson." Then you saddle into the harness, say a prayer, and jump! (Ok, this isn't true free fall. A long cord is attached to your back which slows you down for the last 20 ft of the drop.)
But, for physics sake, let's say that a person jumping off the Stratosphere was in perfect free fall. What would the maximum speed of the brave yet stupid jumper be?
Vmax occurs as the person hits the ground
h= height of the building, ~260 meters
g= acceleration due to gravity, 9.8 m/s2
Conservation of energy: mgh=(1/2)mvf2
vf= 71.4 m/s which is about 159.7mph...This is the speed the jumper would hit the ground at if the cord snapped..ouch
The Stratosphere SkyJump claims that its jumpers reach speeds up to 40mph which is much different than 159.7mph! The attached cord and drag force work together to slow the person down during the jump--it's a good thing!