While gravity supposedly makes all objects accelerate at the same rate, feathers…

While gravity supposedly makes all objects accelerate at the same rate, feathers do not seem to comply. What factors affect the feather’s acceleration, besides air resistance (which should affect all objects equally)?

Actually, air resistance doesn’t affect all objects equally. The feather has so much surface area that it pushes strongly on the air through which it moves and the air pushes back. For an object with very little mass and weight, the feather experiences an enormous amount of air resistance and has great difficulty moving through the air. That’s why it falls so slowly. If you were to pack a feather into a tiny pellet, it would then fall just about as fast as other objects. Similarly, you fall much more slowly when your parachute is opened because it then interacts with the air much more effectively.

I can accept that weight is a force, but it doesn’t seem to follow common sense …

I can accept that weight is a force, but it doesn’t seem to follow common sense to me.

It would seem like a force if you had to lift yourself up ladder. Imagine carrying a friend up the ladder; you’d have to pull up on your friend the whole way. That’s because some other force (your friend’s weight) is pulling down on your friend. But when you think of weight as a measure of how much of you there is, then it doesn’t seem like a force. That’s where the relationship between mass and weight comes into play. Mass really is a measure of how much of you there is and, because mass and weight are proportional to one another, measuring weight is equivalent to measuring mass.

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.