April 28, 2013

A painter is high up on a ladder, painting a house, when unfortunately the ladder starts to fall over from the vertical. Determine which is the less harmful action for the painter: to let go of the ladder right away and fall to the ground, or to hang on to the ladder all the way to the ground?

 

My answer: He should actually let go. If he stays on, he will have both angular and linear momentum (angular from the ladder, linear from gravity). However, if he lets go, he will only have linear momentum. Thus, he will have a lower velocity when he hits the ground (even if only slightly), and the force exerted on him by the ground will be less

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