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Do you think that the chain-ladder on the right, plummeting into free space, falls faster,slower, or at the same speed as the one that hits the table? 

Everything you know from physics class tells you that they should fall at the same rate, no matter if there’s a table underneath one or open space. Guess what? You’re wrong. The ladder that hits the table falls faster.

Here’s why: You’ll notice that the rungs of the ladder are offset, with short and long segments linking each rung. When the lower end of one rung hits the table, it actually pulls down on the end that hasn’t hit (thanks to angular momentum) and accelerates it down to the table. It’s just like how if you hold one end of a ruler on a table and pull up on the other, it whips down like a guillotine.

Rung after rung, the lagging end pulls down on the short segments of rope, accelerating the ladder and speeding up the fall. Here’s the whole saga:

via It's Okay To Be Smart • Let’s take a poll. Do you think that the...

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