Shooting the monkey and floating the watermelon

Today was probably super high on fun and learning quotient.

The idea was to continue exploration of Newton’s laws and the concepts of weight / weightlessness. People often confuse weight and mass. Mass is not easily changeable. It’s more real. Weight is experienced. That was the theme of the initial discussion.

We talked about why weight is felt due to the ‘Normal force’ acting on us. So if the Normal force doesn’t exist, weight cannot be felt. That’s what happens in free fall. If the elevator is in free fall you feel weightless.

This is what happens with astronauts in space. They ‘feel’ weightless.

A rising elevator makes you ‘feel’ heavier. A falling elevator makes you ‘feel’ lighter.

We talked about the science behind simulating weightlessness on earth. In fact I could show it in the living room by jumping off the chair with a watermelon in my hand … and using the slow motion camera on my phone.

Then came the crown jewel of our program. The shooting monkey experiment.


That’s me dressed up as a hunter !!

It’s a sad story of a monkey being shot by a hunter. The monkey (Fred) is hanging by the branch.

The hunter aims perfectly to shoot the monkey. All should go as per plan and sadly the monkey should get shot.


The monkey is smart. It let’s go as soon as it sees the flare of the gun.


The hunter is smarter. He expects the monkey to let go and decides to adjust for the falling monkey. He has three choices.

(A) Leave it as it is (B) Lift it up even more (C) Lower the gun to catch it falling


What would you recommend?

We built an interesting mechanism to demonstrate this phenomenon (Built by our intern Kautilya and my two sons). We had so much fun.

From next week we will be starting the journey of building our projects.

Our inspiration is the Classical Mechanics lecture by Walter Lewins. (Watch from 35:03). Hats off to the master.

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