Amir Cohen/Reuters
A feather rests on the ground near Sderot, Israel, June 4, 2018.

# At home with Galileo: Simple science for cooped-up kids

On Aug. 2, 1971, NASA astronaut David Scott, while standing on the moon, paid homage to history’s most famous scientific experiment. In his left hand he held a falcon feather. In his right hand, a hammer. He stretched out his arms and released the two objects at the same time.

What do you think happened? If you were to try this on Earth, you would expect the hammer to land first and the feather to float gently down to the ground a second or two later. And maybe, after repeating this experiment a few times, you would come to the same conclusion that the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle arrived at: The heavier something is, the faster it falls.

It’s such a simple idea that it took one of the smartest people in history – a Renaissance-era Italian math professor named Galileo Galilei – to prove Aristotle wrong. Legend has it that Galileo dropped spheres of different masses from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but we can re-create his experiment with two identical plastic water bottles.

## Why We Wrote This

For people at home with kids, here’s an installment from our Science at Home series. In this experiment, kid scientists can test the idea that the heavier something is, the faster it falls.

Fill one bottle with water and screw the cap back on tightly. Now, fill the other one halfway with water and replace the cap. Now, you have two water bottles, one of which is about twice as heavy as the other.

Now, drop both bottles from the same height at the same time. If you like, you can use a smartphone or tablet to record the drop in slow motion.

Both bottles should hit the ground at exactly the same time. As you can see, the weight of the bottle has no effect on how fast it falls.

So why, on Earth, do feathers float and hammers drop? It’s not because they are lighter. After all, a military parachute can weigh some 30 pounds, much heavier than a hammer, but it helps a paratrooper descend more slowly from a plane than a hammer would. Feathers and parachutes fall slowly because they have a lot of surface area relative to their weight, allowing the air to push back on them as they fall.

But on the moon, there is no air to slow down falling objects, which is why, when Commander Scott dropped his feather and his hammer, they hit the ground at the same time.

“How about that!” said Commander Scott after dropping the hammer and the feather. “Mister Galileo was correct!”

This experiment is part of the Monitor’s occasional Science at Home series.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for \$15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

https://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2020/0417/At-home-with-Galileo-Simple-science-for-cooped-up-kids
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe

## Subscription expired

Your subscription to The Christian Science Monitor has expired. You can renew your subscription or continue to use the site without a subscription.

This message will appear once per week unless you renew or log out.

## Session expired

Your session to The Christian Science Monitor has expired. We logged you out.