It all started with astronauts on Fox News, being interviewed from the Space Station. A coworkers says to me “Wouldn’t it be cool to feel weightless like that?” I told him that, in fact, he has felt that way anytime he’s been on a steep rollercoaster, a quickly descending plane, a falling elevator, trampoline, or swimming pool. He refused to believe this.
His reasoning is that you get a knot in your stomach because you’re falling. And the astronauts just float around. I tried explaining that the astronauts are falling too, but he swears it’s not the same thing. He keeps saying that there’s no gravity in space. I ask what keeps the moon in orbit, and he says it’s because the moon is big (which I know to be irrelevant). He’s said that on the space station, he (a 270lb football player) would weigh nothing while I keep trying to explain that he’ll weigh roughly 250 lbs. And lastly, he says that there is gravity outside the station, but not inside it.
It doesn’t help that other, worsely informed coworkers keep passing by to drop stupid-bombs by saying things like “If a plane flies really high, the passengers will be weightless” , “There are Lagrange points where there isn’t any gravity”, “The space station is outside the gravitational field of the earth” and “You can’t calculate gravity, you can only see it’s effects…like the wind.”
These people have no understanding of force, velocity, acceleration, or a bunch of other Physics 101 concepts. So help me explain the following:
- You’re not weightless on the space station.
- It’s exactly like being in a plummeting elevator.
- There’s gravity in space, inside the atmosphere, outside the atmosphere, in the space station, and outside the space station.
Please help, before I lose my mind.