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Name ________________

Momentum:

When we think of momentum, we often think of sports teams. We might say that a

team has a lot of momentum. That team is hard to stop. That can give us a good

working definition for momentum: an objects momentum is how hard it will be to stop

the object.

Momentum and Inertia:

When we discussed inertia, we gave it a similar working definition. Inertia was

how hard it is to change the speed of an object. We found that the inertia of an object was

its mass. Since momentum (how hard it is to stop) and inertia (how hard it is to change

speed) have similar definitions, they are easy to confuse. To try and sort it out, imagine

these examples:

Description

A train moving at 20 m/s

at 20 m/s.

A train at rest.

change speed)

Huge. It will take a long

time and a lot of energy to

slow down or speed up the

train down.

Small. It is easy to speed

up or slow down the ping

pong ball. Just hit it with a

paddle.

Huge. It will take a long

time and a lot of energy to

get the train moving.

is to stop)

Huge. It will be very

difficult to stop the train.

Small. It will be very easy

to stop.

None. It is already stopped.

It will take nothing to stop

it.

So, a train will always have a lot of inertia, since it has a large mass. But, its

momentum can vary depending on its velocity.

Equation:

p = mv

Example:

What is the momentum of a 60 kg student running at 8 m/s, west?

p = mv = (60 kg)(8 m/s) = 480 kg m/s, west

Note that momentum does not have its own unit. Since we got it by multiplying

kg and m/s, the unit is just kg m/s. Also, since it is a vector, we should add the

direction to be complete in our answer.

In order to change momentum, we must change velocity. According to Newtons

First Law (An object in motion will stay in motion at a constant velocity), in order to

change velocity, a force is needed.

Starting with Newtons Second Law (F=ma) , and the definition of acceleration

(a = v/t) we can see that:

F = ma

F = mv/t

Ft = mv

The right side of the equation is the change in momentum (p = mv).

The left side of the equation is a new quantity called the impulse (the

symbol for impulse is J). J = Ft

We can combine this to get J = Ft = mv = p

Examples:

1. A car with a mass of 1000 kg slows from 30 m/s, west to 22 m/s, west in 4 seconds.

a. What is the change in momentum for the car?

b. What is the force on the car?

c. What is the impulse on the car?

2. An egg with a mass of 0.1 kg is dropped. It hits the ground with a speed of 5 m/s, and

stops in 0.05 seconds. A 2nd egg with the same mass is dropped and lands with the same

speed on a pillow, and comes to a stop in 0.2 seconds.

a. Compare the change in momentum for the eggs.

b. Compare the impulse for the two eggs.

c. Compare the forces on the two eggs.

Note that in the example above, the same impulse was achieved with different forces. To

achieve a certain change in momentum, you can have a big force acting over a small

time, or a small force acting over a larger time. So, imagine a car traveling at 50 mi/hr

hitting a tree. The driver changes speed from 50 mi/hr to zero whether or not she is

protected by an air bag. She will have the same change in momentum either with or

without the air bag. The air bag reduces the force by increasing the time necessary to

achieve the same impulse.

Conservation of Momentum

A very important concept is that for any system of objects, as long as there is no

external force, momentum is conserved. (Think of Newtons first law. Objects will

move at a constant velocity, and therefore a constant momentum, as long as there is no

outside force.)

Conservation of Momentum does not mean that every object will have the same

momentum all the time. If two cars collide, they will both change speed and momentum.

But, because there was no outside force (just the force between the two cars), the total

momentum of the system will remain the same.

Problem Solving.

For problems which involve conservation of momentum, you will always follow the

same steps.

1. Draw a picture.

2. You know that the total momentum is conserved. (ptot before = ptot after)

3. Find expressions for the total momentum before and the total momentum after,

and set the expressions equal.

Examples:

1. A 400 kg car traveling east at 20 m/s collides with a stationary 200 kg car. After

the collision, the 200 kg car is traveling at 15 m/s, east. What is the speed of the

400 kg car?

Elastic collisions are when two objects bounce off each other without any sticking,

and there is no loss of kinetic energy in the collisions. This is an ideal case, and would

never happen in the real world. (Although it can be approached with hard objects, like

billiard balls, and can be essentially achieved with subatomic particles.)

Inelastic Collisions are when there is some sticking, and there is some loss of

kinetic energy. A totally inelastic collision is when the objects stick together and the

most kinetic energy is lost.

A 200 kg car traveling at 30 m/s, east collides inelastically with a 400 kg car traveling

at 20 m/s, west. What is the velocity of the cars after the collision?

reverse. An object that was together breaks apart.

Example: A 5 kg cannon ball is shot out of a 100 kg cannon. If the speed of the

cannonball if 60 m/s after firing, what is the recoil speed of the cannon?

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