It was Galileo himself who first revealed that in a vacuum, if you were to drop two items from the same altitude, they’d hit the ground at precisely the same time, irrespective of their own weights. Of course, on Earth, we seldom - if ever - get the chance to see this at play, thanks to a marvel known as air resistance.
The mixture of bowling ball and feather is the flawless way to prove air resistance, also known as drag. Because the shape of the feather lets it to undergo way more air resistance than the bowling ball, it takes much lengthier to fall to the ground.
British physicist Brian Cox desired to see this primary-school problem play out in a vacuum, where there is nil air resistance to mess with the consequences. Recording for his new BBC 2 show, Human Universe, he voyaged to the US and went to the NASA Space Power Facility in Ohio. The facility is the world’s largest vacuum compartment, measuring 30.5 metres by 37.2 metres, and has a capacity of 22,653 cubic metres.
When not in use, the chamber covers around 30 tonnes of air, but when it’s rotated on; all but around 2 grams of air are slurped out to make a fake vacuum. Watch above to see what occurs when a bowling ball and feather are released in the chamber under 'normal' circumstances and then in a vacuum. If it's enough to make even the most experienced NASA scientist grin with childlike wonder, you know it's got to be good.
Here is perhaps the perfect example, brought to us by physicist Brian Cox. He checked out NASA’s Space Simulation Chamber located at the Space Power Facility in Ohio. With a volume of 22,653 cubic meters, it’s the largest vacuum chamber in the world.