*This Physics quiz is called 'Forces - Forces and Terminal Velocity' and it has been written by teachers to help you if you are studying the subject at senior high school. Playing educational quizzes is one of the most efficienct ways to learn if you are in the 11th or 12th grade - aged 16 to 18.*

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When you run as hard as you can, you soon reach a point where you can run no faster. This is your **terminal velocity** (or terminal speed if you are changing direction). Terminal velocity is the maximum velocity an object can reach and it depends on the magnitude of the resultant force - when it becomes zero, terminal velocity is reached. But what is it that reduces a resultant force to zero? When you are running, it is air resistance.

F senior high school, you are expected to know that the faster an object moves through a fluid, the greater the frictional force that acts on it, as well as the speed changes of an object falling through a fluid due to the force of gravity.

The latter could cover all sorts of things like dropping a marble into a tube filled with golden syrup, how birds of prey increase or decrease their terminal velocity or free-fall skydiving! One of the general skills you need for senior high school physics is the ability to interpret graphs, including velocity-time graphs for objects that reach terminal velocity. On such a graph, a gradient of zero following a period of acceleration indicates that terminal velocity has been reached.

In everyday language, people usually use the word fluid to mean something that is a liquid. In science, it just means a substance capable of flowing, therefore gasses (including the air) are fluids too. So, back to running. The faster that you run, the greater the friction of your body with the air (we call this friction **air resistance**). When the force of air resistance matches the force that your legs can create, the resultant force is zero, so you don't accelerate any more.

Similar thinking can be applied to vehicles. One of the facts about a car that interests some people is the top speed. This is limited by the driving force that the motor can create. When the speed of the car reaches the point where air resistance is equal to the driving force, the car will go no faster. Manufacturers of fast cars keep the mass as low as possible and make the engine generate as much power as it can.

When falling towards earth, parachutists reduce terminal velocity by greatly increasing their surface area. When they jump out of a plane or helicopter, they experience a period of **free-fall**. During this time, their parachute is not deployed and they simply fall through the air, pulled towards the surface of the Earth by gravity. At the start of the jump, the force of gravity is much larger than the air resistance, so the parachutist accelerates rapidly. As air resistance increases with the increase in speed, the acceleration gradually slows to zero as air resistance and gravitational forces become equal. The parachutist has reached terminal velocity at that point. When the parachute is opened, this presents a greater surface area to the air and therefore the air resistance suddenly increases. This causes a rapid deceleration and so the air resistance force falls again (remember slower speeds mean less air resistance). When it has dropped to the point where it equals the pull of gravity on the parachutist, deceleration stops and the parachutist descends with a much reduced terminal velocity.

For a free-falling human being approaching the Earth's surface, terminal velocity is about 120 miles per hour. In 2012, the first human to free-fall faster than the speed of sound was Felix Baumgartner. He jumped from a balloon at a height of 39,000 meters and his highest free-fall speed was about 880 miles per hour. The air is much thinner at such heights so air resistance is much lower.

1.

The gravity on the moon is 1/6 of the force due to gravity on the Earth. What is the weight of a person on the moon who has a mass of 65 kg?

6.5 N

25 N

65 N

108 N

The mass of a person remains the same no matter where they are in the universe. The weight of an object is created by the force of gravity acting on its mass

2.

An astronaut travels to another planet. On this planet she records that she has a weight of 400 N. She knows from measurements back at the space center that she has a mass of 72 kg. What is the strength of gravity on this new planet?

3.3 N/kg

5.56 N/kg

7.89 N/kg

12.23 N/kg

Rearranging the equation to *g* = ^{W}/_{m} and substituting with the figures gives you the correct answer

3.

What is weight measured in?

Kilograms

Newtons

Grams

Metres

Weight is measured in newtons, whilst mass is measured in kilograms

4.

Which formula correctly relates the weight of an object and the force exerted on it by gravity?

This is a variation of the equation from Newton's second law

5.

If an object is placed into a fluid and released on Earth, what will initially happen to the object?

Accelerate

Decelerate

Move at a constant velocity

None of the above

Initially, the force of gravity is greater than the resistance force from the fluid

6.

Which statement is true for an object which is traveling through a fluid?

The slower an object moves, the greater the frictional force that acts upon it

The frictional force on an object moving through a fluid remains constant regardless of the speed at which the object moves through the fluid

The faster an object moves, the greater the frictional force that acts upon it

After an object reaches a certain speed, whilst traveling through a liquid, the frictional force acting upon it becomes zero

Fluids are liquids and gasses

7.

What could a horizontal line on a velocity-time graph indicate?

An object has reached terminal velocity

An object is accelerating

An object is decelerating

An object has changed direction

A velocity time graph can show you when an object is at rest, whether it is accelerating or if it is traveling at a constant speed. The gradient gives you the acceleration - a horizontal line has zero gradient which means zero acceleration. An object traveling at terminal velocity is no longer accelerating through the fluid. The area underneath a velocity-time graph will tell you the distance traveled by an object

8.

What is the weight of a person on Earth if their mass is 65 kg?

500 N

650 N

750 N

850 N

Unless you are told otherwise, assuming that the Earth's gravitational field strength is 10 N/kg is acceptable for a senior high school test. In everyday language, people often refer to their weight in kilograms - in science, that is incorrect, the SI unit for weight is the newton

9.

What is the speed of an object known as when the force due to gravity and the frictional forces acting on the object are equal?

Initial velocity

Terminal velocity

Final velocity

Light speed

All objects traveling through a fluid have a terminal velocity

10.

Why does a parachute reduce a parachutist's terminal velocity?

It decreases the force of gravity exerted on the parachutist and hence reduces the parachutist's terminal velocity

It decreases the amount of air resistance exerted on the parachutist and hence reduces the parachutist's terminal velocity

It increases the amount of air resistance exerted on the parachutist and hence reduces the parachutist's terminal velocity

It increases the force of gravity exerted on the parachutist and hence reduces the parachutist's terminal velocity

This is achieved by increasing the surface area of the parachutist

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