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In the late 16th century, famed Italian scientist Galileo Galilei supposedly dropped balls of different weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate that they reached ground at the same time irrespective of their mass. Prior to Galileo’s findings people had believed that objects of different mass fell at different speeds. While this story of Galileo's experiment has been retold in popular accounts, historian believe that it was merely a thought experiment and that Galileo never actually dropped anything from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Nevertheless, the story is well known and its folklore is widespread, inspiring who knows how many people to drop objects from apartment windows into the sidewalk? Indeed, when astronauts stepped on the moon, they dropped a hammer and a feather to demonstrate that in the absence of air resistance both objects fell at the same rate.

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Photo credit: seekme/Panoramio

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