If you shot a gun and dropped a bullet at the same time, how could they land at …

If you shot a gun and dropped a bullet at the same time, how could they land at the same time? Wouldn’t the acceleration behind the bullet keep it in the air longer?

If you shot the bullet horizontally, it really would hit the ground at the same time as the bullet you simply dropped. During the firing, the bullet would accelerate like crazy, but only horizontally. It would leave the gun with a velocity that was only in the horizontal direction. With no forces pushing on it horizontally after that (we’ll neglect air resistance), the bullet will make steady progress downfield. But at the same time, it will begin to fall. The vertical component of its velocity will gradually increase in the downward direction as it falls. Like the dropped bullet, it will drift downward faster and faster and the two will hit the ground together.

Why do objects on earth accelerate downward at the same speed regardless of thei…

Why do objects on earth accelerate downward at the same speed regardless of their mass?

What you mean here is that they accelerate downward at the same rate (“speed” has a particular meaning that isn’t so well suited to discussions of acceleration). This fact comes about because, although massive objects are harder to accelerate, they also experience more weight. Thus a huge stone will fall at the same rate as a small rock because the stone will be pulled downward more strongly by gravity and that extra pull will make up for the stone’s greater inertia.

I don’t understand the horizontal component of a ball thrown downfield. Does it …

I don’t understand the horizontal component of a ball thrown downfield. Does it have constant velocity and/or acceleration, even at the start?

Until you let go of the ball, you are in control of its velocity and acceleration. During that time, it does accelerate and its velocity isn’t constant. But as soon as you let go of the ball, everything changes. The ball’s motion in flight can be broken up into two parts: its vertical motion and its horizontal motion. Horizontally, the ball travels at a constant speed because there is nothing pushing or pulling on it horizontally (neglecting air resistance). Vertically, the ball accelerates downward at a constant rate because gravity is pulling down on it. Thus the ball travels steadily forward in the horizontal direction as it fall in the vertical direction. Of course, falling can begin with upward motion, which gradually diminishes and is replaced by downward motion.

In what sense is the Space Shuttle falling toward the earth?

In what sense is the Space Shuttle falling toward the earth?

When the space shuttle circles the earth, it’s experiencing only one force: the force of gravity. As a result, it’s perpetually accelerating toward the earth’s center. If it weren’t moving initially, it would begin to descend faster and faster until…splat. But it is moving sideways initially at an enormous speed. While it accelerates downward, that acceleration merely deflects its sideways velocity slightly downward. Instead of heading off into space, it heads a little downward. But it never hits the earth’s surface. Instead, it arcs past the horizon and keeps accelerating toward the center of the earth. In short, it orbits the earth—constantly accelerating toward the earth but never getting there.

Why do two objects of unequal mass fall and hit the ground at the same time?

Why do two objects of unequal mass fall and hit the ground at the same time?

If one object has twice the mass of the other, then it is twice as hard to accelerate. To make it keep pace with the other ball, it must experience twice the force. Fortunately, gravity pulls on it twice as hard (it has twice the weight of the other ball), so in falling, it does keep pace with the other ball. The two fall together. Just for fun, imagine stepping off the high diving board with two friends. The three of you have essentially identical masses and weights and also fall at the same rate. Now imagine that two of you hold hands as you fall. You are now a single object with twice the mass of your other friend. Nonetheless, you still fall at the same rate. So an object with twice the mass of another falls at the same rate as that other object.