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Thread: Terminal Velocity?

  1. #1 Terminal Velocity? 
    Forum Junior
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    So terminal velocity is the max velocity an object can go by gravity. This is due to the air resistance matching the force of gravity?


    Or is the terminal velocity the max speed that object can go?

    What are the two terms for those.

    Thanks!


    Newbie to Science, trying to educate myself on this forum and further my scientific knowledge.

    I like to ask a ton of questions so please be understanding!

    I like to think of new stuff and in new ways.
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  3. #2  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard
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    Terminal velocity would be how fast you are falling when you splat into the ground.
    Depending on clothing and weight it is usually between 80 and 120 mph for most people.
    Parachutists usually count it as 80mph in the prone (flat) position which is about the same as the speed of a wind capable of lifting you off your feet and blowing you away.
    If you fall with your toes or head pointed at the earth you will fall at the higher speed, possibly 200 mph.
    If your clothes are specially streamlined even higher speeds are possible, but I have no idea what the fastest freefall speed is.


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  4. #3  
    Moderator Moderator Janus's Avatar
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    Terminal velocity generally refers to the speed at which the retarding force from air resistance equals the downward force of gravity. At this point, gravity can no longer accelerate the object and it falls at a constant speed. It varies considerably form object to object, depending on density, shape and orientation of the falling object.

    There is no real max speed that an object can fall due to gravity (ignoring air friction), except in the case where the falling object started "at rest". The maximum speed at which an object dropped from a point at rest can reach upon hitting the surface of the body it is dropped upon ( and excluding the gravity effect of any other body) is equal to the escape velocity from the surface of the body. For instance, the escape velocity from the surface of the Earth is ~11 km/sec. So no matter from how height you dropped an object from, it would not hit the surface of the Earth any faster than that.

    Of course, if you threw the object at the Earth, it's starting speed plus that gained in the fall can exceed this value. In addition, the object can pick up additional speed due to the gravity other objects. For example, if you tried to drop an object to the Earth from outside the Solar system, the Sun would add quite a bit of speed by virtue of its own gravity.
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