By Jonny Lupsha, Present Occasions Author
The world’s richest are paying to expertise the weightlessness of outer space, known as zero gravity. Amazon founder and ex-CEO Jeff Bezos not too long ago spent 11 minutes excessive sufficient within the environment to really feel the feeling. Upon his return to being on Earth, he gave away $200 million to charities and nonprofit organizations. Nonetheless, each the phrases “weightlessness” and “zero gravity” are a minimum of a bit deceptive.
In his video sequence Physics in Your Life, Dr. Richard Wolfson, Benjamin F. Wissler Professor of Physics at Middlebury School, did some myth-busting and burst the bubble on each verbiages by way of the lens of physics.
Gravity: All the time Letting Us Down
Most of us have seen video footage of astronauts in area, floating round in spaceships, the Worldwide Area Station, and even outdoors on spacewalks. They appear to be really weightless and free from the gravity we expertise daily on Earth. Are they?
Sure and no.
“Weight is a power that gravity exerts on you,” Dr. Wolfson mentioned. “Frankly, folks say, ‘Effectively, there’s no gravity in area; that’s why astronauts are weightless.’ That’s completely nonsense. If there have been no gravity in area, there could be no power appearing on the spacecraft, or the astronauts, and they might fortunately transfer in a straight line at fixed pace perpetually.
“We might by no means see them.”
Quite the opposite, all objects fall with the identical acceleration. So whenever you’re in a scenario wherein you’re falling, like a spacecraft, all the things round you undergoes the identical acceleration as you and different objects.
For instance, if somebody holds an apple whereas they stand on a excessive diving board at a public swimming pool, and so they soar ft first from the board and let go of the apple, they might see the apple “floating” in entrance of them and so they themselves could really feel weightless. Nonetheless, they’re accelerating quickly in direction of the floor of the Earth—and hopefully not in a stomach flop.
This is similar as what occurs in outer area, with objects like area shuttles and astronauts all the time falling towards Earth however all the time lacking because of the arc of flight. They’re solely below the affect of gravity, with out the forces of Earth’s floor, or a swimming pool, pushing up in opposition to their ft.
Does It Have These Little Illness Baggage?
“NASA has additionally developed an plane; it’s referred to as a ‘vomit comet’ due to what occurs to folks in it,” Dr. Wolfson mentioned. “It flies in arcing parabolic trajectories that, close to their peaks, simulate the movement of an object falling below the affect of gravity alone, transferring below the affect of gravity alone in a parabolic arc.
“As a result of an plane is topic to aerodynamic forces, that trajectory must be fastidiously engineered in order that the aerodynamic forces principally cancel out in a means that makes the trajectory be precisely what would occur below the affect of gravity alone.”
The favored movie Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks was partially filmed within the vomit comet. This was finished in an effort to simulate the texture of area flight. Nonetheless, Dr. Wolfson took concern with the phrase “simulate” on this instance.
“The weightlessness associated with free fall, whether or not it’s occurring proper right here on the floor of the Earth, or in that vomit comet plane, or in a spacecraft in orbit across the Earth, in orbit across the Solar, on the best way to Jupiter, or wherever—as long as its rockets aren’t firing, and as long as no non-gravitational forces are appearing, that state […] is as really a ‘weightless’ state as something any astronaut feels,” he mentioned.
Not all of us must fly to the sting of area to expertise it.