4. Pennies from Heaven
The Myth: A penny dropped from a very high building can kill a pedestrian below.
This myth is so common it has even become a bit of a cliche in movies. The idea is that if you drop a penny from the top of a tall building (such as the Empire State Building) – it will pick up enough speed to kill a person if it lands on them on the ground. But the fact is, the aerodynamics of a penny are not sufficient to make it dangerous.
What would happen in reality is that the person who gets hit would feel a sting – but they would certainly survive the impact.
3. Friction Heat
The Myth: Meteors are heated by friction when entering the atmosphere.
When a meteoroid enters the atmosphere of the earth (becoming a meteor), it is actually the speed compressing the air in front of the object that causes it to heat up. It is the pressure on the air that generates a heat intense enough to make the rock so hot that is glows brilliantly for our viewing pleasure (if we are lucky enough to be looking in the sky at the right time). We should also dispel the myth about meteors being hot when they hit the earth – becoming meteorites. Meteorites are almost always cold when they hit – and in fact they are often found covered in frost. This is because they are so cold from their journey through space that the entry heat is not sufficient to do more than burn off the outer layers.
The Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Next time you see lightning strike and you consider running to the spot to protect yourself from the next bolt, remember this item!
Lightning does strike the same place twice – in fact it is very common. Lightning obviously favors certain areas such as high trees or buildings. In a large field, the tallest object is likely to be struck multiple times until the lightning moves sufficiently far away to find a new target. The Empire State Building gets struck around 25 times a year.
1. Gravity in Space
The Myth:There is no gravity in space:
In fact, there is gravity in space – a lot of it. The reason that astronauts appear to be weightless because they are orbiting the earth. They are falling towards the earth but moving sufficiently sideways to miss it. So they are basically always falling but never landing. Gravity exists in virtually all areas of space.
When a shuttle reaches orbit height (around 250 miles above the earth), gravity is reduced by only 10%.