Will jumping into a falling elevator save your life?


  • The falling elevator, like the person inside, moves with uniform acceleration

  • A jump in a falling elevator should theoretically reduce the impact force, but this only applies in a specific case – the jump must be high enough and the elevator must move at a low speed

  • In a certain case, it is possible for the person in the falling elevator to be weightless relative to the elevator.

There is a lot of information and anecdotal evidence online that suggests this The person who jumped into the elevator somehow underestimated the force of the felt impactTherefore, they suffered fewer injuries. Well, as is usually the case in these types of cases, this is only partly true and applies to a particular situation. But starting from the beginning – Let us explain in more detail the described problem and the system we will talk about.

Probably, many people have studied the question of the elevator and the forces that affect it and the person in it during physics lessons. In theory, the jump should introduce additional force (energy) to the described system.which should eliminate the force with which the elevator falls, and therefore, thanks to the principle of conservation of momentum, the speed of the person’s fall should decrease accordingly.

But here comes the first problem – At what point to make the jump? According to the above assumptions, the person in the falling elevator must jump just before the elevator touches the ground. Thanks to this, the force generated by the jump will be the greatest. This aspect is correct because the elevator (like the person inside it) descends in a uniformly accelerating motion, i.e. a motion in it:

What is the acceleration with which the elevator descends? Of course, it has to do with the acceleration due to gravity, which is approximately 9.8 m/s2. Therefore, for our limited system, the descending elevator will reach its maximum speed just before it touches the ground. However, for this method to work, This speed should be very slowIn addition, there is a low possibility that a person who has no idea how high he is currently at, You will jump at the right moment.

Image: OpenStax Poland/Physics for Universities. Volume 1

Distribution of forces in the elevator

The other problem is the value of kinetic energy (which relates to body movement) that a person can generate when jumping in a limited space under unfavorable conditions. This value depends of course on The maximum height that can be reached without the help of additional items (For example, a pole-shaped crane) that a person can jump on. As you can easily guess, they are very limited, so the real possibilities for reducing impact force are almost zero.

Combined with the previous side (no possibility to evaluate the exact moment to make the jump) Jumping on a falling elevator will not have any positive effect Not to mention, it won’t make us float in an elevator like astronauts on the International Space Station.

The elevator falls and becomes weightless

Another interesting case worth considering is the situation when A person jumps into an elevator, and the moment he is in the air, the elevator begins to fall rapidly. Is there a possibility that the person could end up in a state of weightlessness? Again, it all depends on how our passenger elevator was moving before failure.

If it is just hanging and not moving in any direction, the person in the elevator may feel this condition for a moment. It is worth noting that CThe man inside would be weightless to the elevator and not to the floor As is the case with astronauts on the International Space Station. It’s exactly the same with the zero gravity flights offered by some companies. when The aircraft will rise to the appropriate altitude and then begin a free descent (nose down)Passengers will find themselves in a state of weightlessness relative to this aircraft for a few moments.

In other cases (for example, when the elevator was going down, had some kinetic energy, and after a while it just broke down) the situation described above would not occur.

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