Q:

# How fast does an object fall?

A:

Since a free-falling object only travels in one direction, its speed is equal to its velocity. The velocity of a falling object is equal to the downward acceleration of gravity times the amount of time that it takes for the object to fall back to Earth.

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On Earth, the acceleration due to gravity is 9.8 meters per second per second. Under ideal conditions, if an object falls for 1 second, it has a velocity and speed of 9.8 meters per second. Two seconds of free fall results in a velocity and speed of 19.6 meters per second. The longer an object falls, the faster its speed.

In the real world, the speed of a falling object is affected by air resistance and differs from the ideal. The amount of air resistance an object encounters is directly related to its cross-sectional area and its mass. A skydiver in free fall has a faster speed than when he deploys his parachute, since the cross-sectional area of the parachute is many times greater than the skydiver's body profile. Since mass also plays a role in the relationship between air resistance and speed, a skydiver weighing 200 pounds falls faster than a 150-pound skydiver. This effect occurs because the upward force of air resistance pushes harder against a less massive object, better counteracting the downward force of gravity.

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