If you had an object in an empty sphere with a radius of a few miles, surrounded…

If you had an object in an empty sphere with a radius of a few miles, surrounded by equally distributed and very concentrated mass, what effects of gravity would the object feel?

As long as the mass isn’t so concentrated that the laws of general relativity become important, the object won’t feel any gravity at all. The forces from opposite sides of the surrounding mass will cancel exactly. For example, if you were at the center of the earth in a large spherical opening, you would be perfectly weightless. The force from the north side of the earth would balance the force from the south side. This effect is quite remarkable and depends on the fact that gravity becomes weaker as the inverse square of the distance separating two objects. That way, even if you aren’t in the exact center of the earth, the forces still cancel.

When you throw a ball upward, what force pushes it upward?

When you throw a ball upward, what force pushes it upward?

To throw the ball upward, you temporarily push upward on it with a force greater than its weight. The result is that the ball has a net force (the sum of all forces on the ball) that is upward. The ball responds to this upward net force by accelerating upward. You continue to push upward on the ball for a while and then it leaves your hand. By that time, it’s traveling upward with a considerable velocity. But once it leaves your hand, it is in free fall. Nothing but gravity is pushing on it—it’s carried upward by its own inertia! In fact, it’s accelerating downward at 9.8 m/s^2. It rises for a while, but less and less quickly. Eventually it comes to a stop and then it begins to descend.

How can an object in space “fall”?

How can an object in space “fall”?

Gravity still acts on objects, even though they are in space. No matter how far you get from the earth, it still pulls on you, albeit less strongly than it does when you are nearby. Thus if you were to take a ball billions of miles from the earth and let go, it would slowly but surely accelerate toward the earth (assuming that there were no other celestial objects around to attract the ball—which isn’t actually the case). As long is nothing else deflected it en route, the ball would eventually crash into the earth’s surface. Even objects that are “in orbit” are falling; they just keep missing one another because they have large sideways velocities. For example, the moon is orbiting the earth because, although it is perpetually falling toward the earth, it is moving sideways so fast that it keeps missing.

If you jump off of a diving board, are you exerting force on the board or is it …

If you jump off of a diving board, are you exerting force on the board or is it exerting force on you?

Actually, as you stand on the end of the board or as you push off from its end, you are pushing on the board and it is pushing back on you. The forces you exert on one another are exactly equal in amount but opposite in direction. That observation is called Newton’s third law of motion and is the real meaning behind the phrase “for every action there is a reaction.”

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.