NASA’s gigantic vacuum chamber

Here’s an extract from a BBC program(me) in which physicist Brian Cox (who is incidentally way older than he looks, the bastid) visits NASA’s Space Power Facility, which features the largest vacuum chamber in the world, and arranges to drop a bowling ball and a set of feathers at the same time.


This was part of the series Human Universe.

With the chamber full of air the feathers float down far more slowly than the canon ball, but in a vacuum they fall at the same speed, just as Galileo predicted in contradiction to Aristotle. Galileo’s reasoning was straightforward: Two bricks weigh twice as much as one brick, but cementing them together wouldn’t make them fall faster than they would individually, so absent air resistance objects ought to fall at the same rate regardless of weight.

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