Using OK Go to teach gravity

One thing my kids really love is learning made fun. Attempting to explain Newton’s law of universal gravitation in a fun way, why things fall, what weight/mass is, and that objects in vacuum falling at the same rate, have been a little difficult when the 6 & 8 yo instinctively know that a feather falls slower than a bowling ball because it’s lighter.

TL;DR – some easy talking points that you can teach, you know gravity, I’m just pointing to a cool music video.

Yeah, we need to update that falling in a vacuum to more relatable things such as slime, broccoli, and a pillow.

So let’s set the scene up differently. Here’s the OK Go music video called Upside Down & Inside Out:

This video has it all if you’re looking to talk to your kids about gravity, weightlessness on Earth, and zero-G choreography. OK, probably not all of it, but we’ve got some very important concepts younger kids can be introduced to.

For the start we’re going to introduce the kiddos to the idea that OK Go is not actually weightless, they’re falling / accelerating toward the ground. Next point out that everything in that plane is falling/floating at the same rate.

You can look at this like a modified feather and bowling ball in a vacuum experiment. If things fell at different rates based on weight, various items and people would not be weightless or would be flying toward the camera at different velocities. I mean, this isn’t correct but it’s a good way to ease into the difficult conversation of talking to your kids about gravitational attraction.

I know it’s not particularly the same experiment as there’s air, but your kid should get that the air they’re in is moving with the plane and all that’s really impeding anything is room air.

Things to look at: the light balls, people, and laptops all are having about the same effects with minor variations based on wind resistance and some plane adjustments. You can also throw in the theory of relativity here, but we haven’t gotten into that at the moment.

The airplane is aimed down and at a speed that causes the illusion that there’s no gravity.

Objects and people in motion tend to be very recognizable when there are slight adjustments to the plane’s angle of attack (eg: singer going up as balls get more weight do to shifting angle.)

Talk to your kids

Talk to your kids before they learn about universal gravitation from some science punk on the street.

I mean, I’m not a rocket surgeon here but we’ve got plenty of things to talk about and can jump from – relative velocity, gravity, airplanes, cleanup times from exploded paint balloons, Trish Sie’s choreography masterpieces, Lagrange points, tides, etc.

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.