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Wonders of Physics

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Heavy and light shuttlecocks – which will reach the floor first when released?

Terminal velocity shuttlecock small

Refer to this post on falling of basketball and bowling ball

Refer to this post on a video of falling feather and bowling ball


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PP N2010 P1 Q4


Solutions: Option C

When a body is released from rest, the only force acting on the body is its weight due to gravity. Both bodies experience acceleration due to gravity. Hence for both bodies (regardless of mass), will have the same initial acceleration of 10 m/s2.

As the two bodies are of the same size and shape, they will experience the same air resistance for any particular speed. As speed increases, air resistance increases.

For terminal velocity to be reached, air resistance has to be equal to the weight. Since weight is greater for the ball with larger mass, the air resistance has to be bigger. Thus, the ball has to accelerate more (air resistance increases with speed) for the larger air resistance to be equal to the weight. Hence the ball with larger mass will have larger terminal velocity.

Do not confuse ‘speed of the body is independent of the mass’ as learned in Work Done, Energy and Power. This concept is based on the assumption that there is no air resistance. So not applicable in this question as for terminal velocity to occur, air resistance must be present.