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Say you were in an elevator, in a free fall. Assuming you have the presence of mind in this situation, and assuming you get the timing right and jump so that you are up in the air when the elevator hits bottom, would you be hurt as much as if you hadnt jumped? Thanks.
- J.K. (age 18)
Urbana, IL, USA
Great question! How much you get hurt depends on the force on you when
you hit the ground. Remember that force is proportional to the change
in momentum and inversely proportional to the length of time over which
the momentum changes.
Since momentum is mass times
velocity, the faster you're going when you hit the ground, the more
force you will feel, and the more it will hurt. If the elevator has
been falling for a while, then it's probably moving very fast. If you
jump up, then you'll change your velocity just a little bit. So you'll
be going a tiny bit slower when you hit the ground. So, technically
speaking, you would probably not be hurt quite as much. But this
difference would probably be so small as to not be noticeable. In
particular, if you're falling so fast as to be killed in the fall,
jumping would most likely not make enough of a difference to save your
(republished on 07/13/06)
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