Tony Corvo’s article1 presents an analytical solution for Felix Baumgartner’s record high-altitude free fall; the same solution was first published by Ref. 2, for comparison to Joe Kittinger’s 1960 jump. While I agree with the author that this is an excellent topic for students, I am not sure that “an equation is worth 1000 lines of code and much more appealing to look at” in this instance. The analytical solution for speed vs. height involves exponential integrals (daunting for many students), and height vs. time must still be numerically integrated. For students, the key to understanding these jumps is the application of Newton’s second law, which describes the jumper’s instantaneous acceleration as he descends through an atmosphere of increasing density.

As Corvo notes, the exponential fall-off of this density with altitude—essential for the analytical solution given—only works over a restricted range of altitude on Earth. The solution also...

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