Falling Feather

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In this physics activity, learners recreate Galileo's famous experiment, in which he dropped a heavy weight and a light weight from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to show that both weights fall at the same acceleration. Learners prove that Galileo was correct by comparing how fast a feather and coin fall in a tube attached to a vacuum. Use this activity to help learners explore acceleration and terminal velocity as well as how air resistance plays a role in how fast things fall.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration


Materials List (per group of students)

  • A clear, plastic, rigid-walled tube with at least a 1 inch (2.5 cm) inner diameter and at least 3 feet (90 cm) long
  • A solid rubber stopper and a one-hole rubber stopper to fit in the ends of the plastic tube
  • A section of copper tubing about 4 inches (10 cm) long that fits tightly in the hole in the rubber stopper (glass tubing can be used if care is taken)
  • A thick-walled flexible plastic or rubber vacuum tubing about 6 feet (180 cm) long
  • A coin and a feather (or a small piece of paper)
  • A vacuum pump (use a regular lab vacuum pump if available; if not, use a small hand pump such as Mityvac®).
  • 2 hose clamps
  • Adult help


  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Rate
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Momentum and Velocity
      • Acceleration
      • Newton's Laws
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Historical Reenactment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • California Department of Education
  • NEC Foundation of America