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“Only…Because of the Air”

While grading Physics assignments from students this evening, I came across the following answer:

“Something new that I learned in this lesson is that everything, if not met with an obstacle falls at the same rate and that we only see things fall at different speeds because of the air.”

As I read this, I thought, “How ridiculous is this?”.

“We only see things fall at different speeds because of the air.”

Only…because of the air?

If we consider the real motion of falling bodies to be that with the air excluded, why do we stop there? Why do we not consider the real motion to be that with “force of gravity” excepted also? We might just as well say that:

“All bodies are actually motionless; we only see things fall because of gravity.”

Why is the AIR spoken of as something unnatural?

Why is gravity not similarly treated?

Is it more “scientific” to say that boats do not actually float, but we only see them to float because of the…water?

Should we say that wood does not actually burn, but that we only see it burn because of the…fire?

Why are we permitted to exclude one element, or force, and retain others when describing the motion of bodies?

One Comment

  1. Frank Hallvard Hegland Frank Hallvard Hegland April 13, 2024

    After sharing your quotation of Physics, chapter 8 with some friends I got the same strange response.
    And in addition to ignoring air resistance, they also acted as if they can ignore Aristotle because he supposedly did not get the acceleration right. But as far as I know, Aristotle did not even write about acceleration, but velocity.
    I enjoy the latest posts on physics.
    They are very interesting and helpful.
    Thank you for sharing!

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