Fear of Flying: The Physics of Falling

Philip Stephenson

Defying Gravity

Gravity is one of the oldest tricks in the book Let go of the book and it abseils to the ground As if, at the centre of the Earth, spins a giant yo-yo To which everything is attached by an invisible string

Tear out a page of the book and make an aeroplane. Launch it. For an instant it seems that you have fashioned A shape that can outwit air, that has slipped the knot. But no. The Earth turns, the winch tightens, it is wound in.

One of my closest friends is, at the time of writing, Attempting to defy gravity, and will surely succeed. Eighteen months ago he was playing rugby, Now, seven stones lighter, his wife carries him aw-

Kwardly from room to room. Arranges him gently Upon the sofa for visitors. ‘How are things?’ Asks one not wanting to know. Pause. ‘Not too bad.’ (Open brackets. Condition inoperable. Close brackets)

Soon now, the man that I love (not the armful of bones) Will defy gravity. Freeing himself from the tackle He will side-step the opposition and streak down the wing Towards a dimension as yet unimagined.

Back where the strings are attached there will be a service And homage paid to the giant yo-yo. A box of left overs Will be lowered into a space on loan from the clay. Then, weighted down, the living will walk wearily away.

Roger McGough


Frictional Force
Gravitational Force
Air Resistance
Balanced and Unbalanced Forces
Self Assessment