Feather and Bowling Ball Drop in Huge Vacuum Chamber

Contributor
BBC
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Phenomenon
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This is a video of the world’s largest vacuum chamber in which a feather and a bowling ball are dropped at the same time to see which one hits the ground first. This phenomena can be used to elicit driving questions for the unit such as: Why do objects fall? Why didn’t the mass of the object affect its rate of falling?

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • High School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

HS-PS2-1 Analyze data to support the claim that Newton’s second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration.

Clarification Statement: Examples of data could include tables or graphs of position or velocity as a function of time for objects subject to a net unbalanced force, such as a falling object, an object rolling down a ramp, or a moving object being pulled by a constant force.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to one-dimensional motion and to macroscopic objects moving at non-relativistic speeds.

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This phenomena can be used to help learners understand the relationship between forces within a system and how the absence of a particular force can impact the net force on an object. This performance expectation includes the disciplinary core idea of Newton’s second law which relates force, mass, and acceleration. This relationship can be explored for objects falling in a vacuum versus falling through the atmosphere. Students can further investigate objects falling through the air in the classroom such as parachute toys or coffee filters.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Learners watching the video will observe the motion of the two objects and can see that both objects hit the ground at the same time, but may question how fast the objects are falling, if the rate of acceleration of both objects is the same as they fall, and other questions that can be answered through quantitatively analyzing the video. Video analysis software is available from many vendors or open source software options online that allow the learner to track an object through each frame of the video and using that data determine the velocity and acceleration of the objects as they fall.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
As students watch the video they can observe qualitatively what occurs with the feather and the bowling ball. Students can then analyze the motion quantitatively and include in their investigations similar objects falling in the atmosphere and track the motion of the objects as they reach terminal velocity. This could extend to include the changes in the acceleration of the objects as they fall through the air. At about 4:10 in the video Brian Cox asks if the objects are really falling which can be used as a great starter for a class discussion.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
As students view this video and investigate other related phenomena throughout the unit they can gather empirical evidence to determine if what they are observing and measuring is a cause/effect relationship.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: - none -

  • Instructional Supports: - none -

  • Monitoring Student Progress: - none -

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -