G-Force Training

G-Force Training

The g-force (with g from gravitational) associated with an object is its acceleration relative to free-fall. This acceleration experienced by an object is due to the vector sum of non-gravitational forces acting on an object free to move. The accelerations that are not produced by gravity are termed proper accelerations, and it is only these that are measured in g-force units. They cause stresses and strains on objects, which are felt as weight (any g-force can thus be simply described, and measured, as a “weight per unit mass”). Because of these strains (weight forces), large proper accelerations (large g-forces), may be destructive. The standard gravitational acceleration at the Earth’s surface produces g-force only indirectly. The 1 g force on an object sitting on the Earth’s surface is caused by mechanical force exerted in the upward direction by the ground, keeping the object from going into free-fall. An object on the Earth’s surface is accelerating relative to the free-fall condition, which is the path an object would follow falling freely toward the Earth’s center. It is thus experiencing proper acceleration, even without a change in velocity (which is dv/dt, the familiar “coordinate acceleration” of Newton’s laws). Objects allowed to free-fall under the influence of gravity feel no g-force, as demonstrated by the “zero-g” conditions inside a freely-falling elevator falling toward the Earth’s center (in vacuum), or (to good approximation) conditions inside a spacecraft in Earth orbit. These are examples of coordinate acceleration (a change in velocity) without proper acceleration. Since the g-force felt is always a measure of proper acceleration (which, in these cases, is zero, even though the objects are freely changing velocity due to gravity) all of these conditions of free-fall produce no g-force. The experience of no g-force (zero-g), however it is produced, is synonymous with weightlessness. In the absence of gravitational fields, or in directions at right angles to them, proper and coordinate accelerations are the same, and any coordinate acceleration must be produced by a corresponding g-force acceleration. An example here is a rocket in free space, in which simple changes in velocity are produced by the engines, and produce g-forces on the rocket and passengers. In an airplane, the pilot’s seat can be thought of as the hand holding the rock, the pilot as the rock. When flying straight and level at 1 g, the pilot is acted upon by the force of gravity. His weight (a downward force) is 725 newtons (163 lbf). In accordance with Newton’s third law, the plane and the seat underneath the pilot provides an equal and opposite force pushing upwards with a force of 725 N (163 lbf). This mechanical force provides the 1.0 g-force upward proper acceleration on the pilot, even though this velocity in the upward direction does not change (this is similar to the situation of a person standing on the ground, where the ground provides this force and this g-force). If the pilot were suddenly to pull back on the stick and make his plane accelerate upwards at 9.8 m/s2, the total g force on his body is 2 g, half of which comes from the seat pushing the pilot to resist gravity, and half from the seat pushing the pilot to cause his upward acceleration—a change in velocity which also is a proper acceleration because it also differs from a free fall trajectory. Considered in the frame of reference of the plane his body is now generating a force of 1,450 N (330 lbf) downwards into his seat and the seat is simultaneously pushing upwards with an equal force of 1,450 N (330 lbf).

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