I have a question that came up in a discussion with friends. If I throw a ball straight up in an enclosed train car moving with constant velocity, I believe the basic physics books say it will land in the same spot. But will it really? I think I can say that the answer is "not in the real world".
Trivially, a train car is never enclosed. Fresh air is being allowed into the carriage or the passengers would all die. Thus there's currents of air that would affect the ball, agreed? If we remove the passengers and have a trusty robot (who does not need oxygen) throw the ball up in a carriage that really is completely air-tight, I'm still not sure it will land in the same spot. I would imagine that there must still be air circulation. The train had to start from a stop. It's true the floor and the roof will drag the air right at the boundary along with it, but just as an open convertible car does not drag all the air in the world with it, I assume that the air in the middle of the car will not be dragged along at the same speed. The air in the middle will remain stationary with respect to earth and pile up at the back of the car. Then it will be forced along. I further imagine that this "pile of air" will try to redistribute itself uniformallly. Won't all this set up currents? Will the air come to be completely still in the reference frame of the car? [I'm guessing the answer is yet] How long would this take?
Bonus question: I believe if I'm sitting in a convertible car and throw a ball straight up it will land back in my hand as long as I don't throw it too far up. At some point, I'll throw it to high and will lose the ball out the back of the car. What's the relevant equation covering this in a car travelling at X miles per hour in still air? Put another way, I'm trying to get a feel for how extensive the "boundary" layer of air around the car is and how it dissipates with distance.
I hope I've been clear enough. Thanks, Dave