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Physics in the Sky: Physics on a Plane

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    American Physical Society

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Physics in the Sky: Physics on a Plane

On an airplane trip, learners have an opportunity to investigate the properties of air pressure at different altitudes. When the plane is at cruising altitude, learners open and cap a empty disposable water bottle. When the plane lands, the water bottle implodes due to greater air pressure on the ground. Learners can also try this experiment in reverse--capping the bottle on the ground and observing the bottle when it is at cruising altitude.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • One empty disposable water bottle with a cap
  • A plane ticket or a friend who will take you up in their plane


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Atmosphere
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
    • States of Matter
      • Gases
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • American Physical Society


  • All Rights Reserved, American Physical Society, ©2012


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