OT: Speed of light [was Re: Why not a Python compiler?]

Erik Max Francis max at alcyone.com
Mon Feb 11 23:42:46 CET 2008


Jeff Schwab wrote:

> Erik Max Francis wrote:
>> Robert Bossy wrote:
>>> I'm pretty sure we can still hear educated people say that free fall 
>>> speed depends on the weight of the object without realizing it's a 
>>> double mistake.
>>
>> Well, you have to qualify it better than this, because what you've 
>> stated in actually correct ... in a viscous fluid.
> 
> By definition, that's not free fall.

In a technical physics context.  But he's talking about posing the 
question to generally educated people, not physicists (since physicists 
wouldn't make that error).  In popular parlance, "free fall" just means 
falling freely without restraint (hence "free fall rides," "free 
falling," etc.).  And in that context, in the Earth's atmosphere, you 
_will_ reach a terminal speed that is dependent on your mass (among 
other things).

So you made precisely my point:  The average person would not follow 
that the question was being asked was about an abstract (for people 
stuck on the surface of the Earth) physics principle, but rather would 
understand the question to be in a context where the supposedly-wrong 
statement is _actually true_.

-- 
Erik Max Francis && max at alcyone.com && http://www.alcyone.com/max/
  San Jose, CA, USA && 37 18 N 121 57 W && AIM, Y!M erikmaxfrancis
   I woke up this morning / You were the first thing on my mind
    -- India Arie



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