Physics Misconceptions

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate December 2001

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Momentum and Falling Bodies Misconceptions In physics misconceptions are quite common. Many misconceptions are created due to the fact that many physics concepts are things that do not affect the daily lives of people. Kids especially have common misconceptions because they either have not taken physics class or have been swayed by the media in some way. After making a list of three misconceptions I previously had, I went around asking relatives and kids around school about the same misconceptions I had to see their response compared to mine. The three questions are dealing with momentum and falling bodies, and are as follows: 1) If you drop a bowling ball and a feather from a building without air resistance, which drops faster, the bowling ball or the feather? 2) Does gravity exist everywhere or in just certain places? 3) What exactly is momentum? The results from the questions were analyzed, compared, and reasons were given for my response to the questions and other people's responses.

A detailed graph of how many people that were asked and their responses can be seen on the last page.

The first question about the bowling ball and the feather received two general responses. First my response to the question was the bowling ball would drop faster because it was obviously heavier and at the time I didn't know anything about physics and the affect of air resistance. I asked four middle school kids in seventh grade and their response was the bowling ball would obviously drop faster because of its weight. I concluded that the middle school kids didn't know much about physics and based their response off of what they have either seen or what seems obvious to them. The kids also have not learned much about gravity or air resistance...