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Our Glaciers: Then and Now activity kit helps you see the changes taking place in glaciers around the world. See all our activity kits and classroom activities.
An artist's rendering of some of the forces of the universe. The apple falling is of course from the story of Isaac Newton discovering the law of gravity as an apple fell from a tree he was sitting underneath.
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Gravity Definition Page

Gravity is one of the universal forces of nature. It is an attractive force between all matter, and is very weak as compared to the other forces of nature. The gravitational force between two objects is dependent on their masses, which is why we can only see gravity in action when at least one of the objects is very large (like the Earth).

Isaac Newton was the first scientist to define gravity mathematically when he formulated his law of universal gravitation. The law of gravitation says that gravity is strongest between two very massive objects, and gets much weaker as these objects get further apart.

One of the applications of this law is the concept of ‘escape velocity’, which is the velocity an object needs to achieve to escape the gravitational pull of another object (like the Earth). Escape velocity can be calculated from Newton’s gravitational law, and if we plug in the measurements we have for the planet Earth, we see that Earth’s escape velocity is about 11 km/s. This means that if you could throw a baseball at 11 km/s, it would never come down!

The concept of escape velocity is especially interesting when you consider black holes. These objects are extremely dense and very small. When we calculate the escape velocity for these objects, we find that the number is actually the speed of light, so not even light can get out of a black hole!

Last modified May 6, 2008 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA