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Jonathan Shao PHYS 165 L

Partner: Kevin Hwang Friday Section


10/02/2015 TA: Han Aung
Summary and Afterthoughts:
The experiment was primarily used to introduce the behavior of momentum and kinetic
energy in elastic collisions. In Collisions, we used a balls of steel and aluminum to observe
collisions qualitatively as well as two videos of previously filmed collisions to gather
quantitative data by using LoggerPro.
The first part consisted of investigating elastic collisions in one dimension in which a
moving object struck a stationary target. Using a pendulum-like contraption, two metal balls of
equal or different masses were hung with equal length strings and one was launched at the other.
We observed both off-center collisions where the projectile ball hits the target ball to the right of
the center and on-center collisions where the projectile ball hits the very center of the target ball.
In the on-center collisions, the movement was restricted to only the x-axis. Momentum from the
projectile ball was transferred to the target ball while the projectile ball remained stationary post-
collision. In the off-center collisions, some of the momentum of the collision for both masses was
diverted to the y-axis movement. Due to the law of conservation of momentum, the y-axis
movement cancelled out as each directional component is conserved.
Next we observed a video in which a metal ball collided into another metal of equal mass
and tracked the trajectory of the balls using LoggerPro. After graphing both the X-axis and Y-
axis ball movement separately, we were able to use the velocities and the mass of the balls to
calculate momentum and conclude that the momentum in each direction was conserved as the
initial and final momentums overlap within the uncertainty ranges. However, when kinetic
energy was calculated, there was a significant drop indicating that the collision was inelastic.
In two other cases, we examined if having a projectile with higher or lower mass than the
target would affect momentum and kinetic energy. Watching another provided video comprising
of those two cases, we tracked the trajectory of the balls using LoggerPro and graphed the X and
Y components separately. From the graphs, we again used the mass and velocity to determine
final and initial momentum to find that it was conserved. However, in the x-direction of the
m1>m2 case, the calculation of momentum indicated that it was not conserved, possibly due to
problems with hand-eye coordination while clicking or the selection of frames that were
unrepresentative of the balls true trajectory. Like the previous case, final kinetic energy also
decreased compared to initial, demonstrating the fact that energy can be converted to another
form of energy such as potential energy or heat but the sum of all energy including kinetic energy
is the same before and after the collision.
This experiment was very insightful as it showed how a fundamental law of physics such
as the law of conservation of momentum may not always be reflected exactly in an empirical
setting, where there may be many discrepancies. Also, we saw how the selection of frames in the
trajectory of an object is crucial in constructing a representative graph and generating values to
quantitatively describe the objects movement. On a theoretical level, both momentum and
energy should have been conserved in an expected elastic collision; however, although the
collision and the resulting ball movement appeared to be elastic, calculations of velocity
indicated that even momentum was not conserved. More strikingly, the post-collision kinetic
energy was distinctly diminished compared to the pre-collision kinetic energy; on an
experimental level, this makes sense, because we are reminded that energy of the system is
assuredly lost to the environment in the form of sound and heat from friction.