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1. How does Gravity affect the speed of a parachute falling to the ground?

2 Does the type of material to make the parachute affect the flight pattern?

3. Does wind affect the flight pattern?

4. Does the size of the parachute affect the speed of it falling to the ground?

Question Date: 2012-12-19
Answer 1:

1. Well, here's one way to think about it: what would a parachute do if there was no gravity? Well, with no gravity to pull it down, it wouldn't fall at all! If we then "turn on" some weak gravity, it makes sense that the parachute would start falling very slowly. As we make gravity stronger, the parachute will fall faster.

The speed at which the parachute falls is called its terminal velocity; it turns out that if you know enough information about the parachute (its size and shape, weight, how air flows around it,...), you can come up with a formula for the terminal velocity in terms of the strength of gravity.

2. Well, yes and no: what matters is the size, shape, and weight of the parachute. So if you have two parachutes with the same size and shape but made of different materials, one heavier than the other, the heavier parachute will fall faster. The way the parachute glides (maybe this is what you meant by "flight pattern") depends much more on the shape of the parachute than the material it's made of (as long as the material is strong enough not to tear, of course!).

3. A steady wind will simply make a parachute move with the wind; otherwise, the flight of the parachute will remain more or less the same. However, I would guess that a gusty, erratic wind can make a parachute unstable and maybe even cause it to tear!

4. Yes, definitely! Imagine a parachute that was microscopically small - then it would hardly do anything, and anyone attached to it would fall straight to the ground as if they weren't wearing a parachute at all! But if a parachute is very large, it catches a lot of air and slows you down a lot more. So a bigger parachute definitely falls slower than a smaller one.

Hope these help! Happy holidays!

Answer 2:

1. Gravity applies the downward force.

2. I don't know - the equation is the force required for the parachute to push the air out of the was as it descends, against the force of gravity. It really shouldn't matter what the material is so long as it doesn't tear.

3. Yes, the force of the air is relative to the air's motion. A parachute will drift in the direction of the wind, and at the same speed of the wind.

4. The larger the area of the parachute, the more air needs to be pushed out of the way, and so the slower it descends.

Answer 3:

1. Gravity will always pull on a parachute with the same force, and will cause it to accelerate towards the Earth at 10 metres per second per second. (10 metres per second squared).

2. Material choice doesn't necessarily change the flight pattern, but the shape of a parachute has a very large influence. For example, circular parachutes are difficult to control, whereas rectangular, ram-air chutes can be controlled easily and are generally quite maneuverable.

3. Wind certainly affects the flight pattern. The wind pushes on the parachute, causing it to be moved in the direction of the wind with whatever speed it is pushing. This needs to be considered when setting a course.

4. The size of the parachute affects the speed of falling because a larger parachute allows it to displace more air, causing it to fall more slowly. If you consider the extreme example of no parachute, an object will fall quickly. However, as the parachute gets larger, it is able to push against--or displace--more air, which will slow down a falling object.

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