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Subject IB Physics Higher Level

Title Temperature and the Elasticity of a

Squash Ball

Word Count 5978

How does the temperature of a 0.02321 kg yellow-dot squash ball (1, 10, 20, 30,
40, 50, 60, 70 °C) affect the gravitational potential energy (J) gained by a 0.06735
kg pendulum bob after it is struck by the ball?

During the weekends, I often play squash. Before
playing, the ball must be warmed up by repeatedly
hitting it against a wall in order to increase its elasticity
so the ball becomes more bouncy.

Upon impact, the ball exerts a force on the wall, and by

Newton’s Third Law of Motion, the wall will exert an
Diagram 1: Hysteresis Loop for Squash Ball
equal and opposite force on the ball. The ball’s kinetic
energy is converted into elastic potential energy as it
deforms due to the force bringing the ball to a rest.
According to Hooke’s Law! F = kΔx , the force exerted
by the wall F should be directly proportional to the
compression, or decrease in diameter, of the ball ∆x.
However, a phenomenon called hysteresis occurs
which causes greater force to be exerted during
compression than expansion. On a graph of F against Δx
∆x, this hysteresis loop is shown as the deviation from
the straight dotted line of the two phases of loading and unloading force. The shaded region
enclosed by the hysteresis loop is the kinetic energy dissipated as internal thermal energy due to
internal friction between molecules. Therefore, the temperature will increase with successive

A squash ball consists of two main elements: the raw butyl rubber exterior (ball’s wall) and the air
within the ball. The rubber is an elastic polymer “elastomer”, composed of long chain-like
molecules. Upon impact, a greater average kinetic energy of these molecules means that they are
more flexible and able to deform, allowing a greater proportion of the initial kinetic energy to be
converted to elastic potential energy before returning to its original molecular shape after losing
contact with the wall. In addition, according to the ideal gas law! pV = nRT , as the temperature
increases, the pressure of the contained gas will also increase while volume and amount remain
constant, and assuming the system is adiabatic. This is due to the increased average velocities of
the gas molecules meaning that the ball’s wall must exert a greater force to change their
momentum upon collision as they collide with greater velocities more frequently. Both these
effects allow more energy to be absorbed and hence release a greater proportion of the initial
kinetic energy as the final kinetic energy of the ball as it loses contact with the wall, making the
ball more “bouncy” as the temperature increases.

When I moved to Paris from Dubai, I needed to change the ball I used based on two criteria:
temperature and pressure. The pressure is roughly constant due to similar altitudes, unlike if I
played at high altitude where the atmospheric pressure is low, thus requiring a less bouncy ball. I
realised that the main factor was that the squash court in Dubai was heavily air-conditioned and
thus colder than squash courts in Paris. This meant if I used the same squash ball in Paris, it would

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be more bouncy than I was used to, increasing the speed of the game. I would like to investigate
the exact relationship between the temperature and the elasticity of the ball so I can decide if I
should buy a new squash ball in the future when I play in different climates.

To investigate this relationship, I considered different methodologies. One method of finding the
elasticity of the ball is to calculate the coefficient of restitution e by measuring the ratio between
the initial height and the height to which the ball rebounds. However, this experiment is quite
simple and the results have already been measured in previous experiments[3]. It also might be
difficult to measure the large range of heights to which the ball rebounds as the height must be
anticipated beforehand, and since the maximum height only occurs for a very short time interval,
cannot be measured by human eye alone. What I found more fascinating is how deformation of
the ball affected the momentum transfer during a collision. Since the temperature of the ball is
inherently linked to its elasticity, it could be interesting to relate this to the efficiency of the energy
transfer between the ball and another object; I decided to use a pendulum bob because its motion
is easy to analyse as friction is not a concern as compared with sliding or rolling objects on the
ground, leading me to my method.

Squash Ball

h1 = 1.000 m ± 0.001 m
l = 0.500 m ± 0.0005 m
(see appendix 1)

h2 = l − l 2 − x 2

Pendulum Bob



The squash ball will be heated up to different temperatures, then placed on the top of the ramp. As
it rolls down the ramp, gravitational potential energy is converted into kinetic energy, allowing for
the final velocity v to be calculated from the height h2 as 1
2 mv 2 = mgh so v = 2gh2 . The ball will
then transfer a portion of its momentum to the pendulum bob at the bottom of the ramp,
depending on the elasticity of the ball. Attached by a string to a pivot point, the bob will follow an
arc path, reaching its maximum height at the point where all the initial kinetic energy, gained from
the collision at the bottom of the ramp, is converted into gravitational potential energy (Ep). The
height h2, therefore Ep, is a function of x and since x > h2 when θ < 45°, measuring x in order to
calculate Ep will produce a smaller random error than measuring height .

As the temperature of the squash ball increases, the gravitational potential energy gained by
the pendulum bob will increase. Increasing the temperature increases both the pressure of the air

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and the average kinetic energy of the rubber molecules. When the ball collides with the bob, the
bob exerts an equal and opposite force on the ball. As the ball compresses and decelerates due to
the opposing force, the increased pressure will exert a greater force on the compressed section of
the ball’s wall, increasing the force that the ball exerts on the bob. More importantly, the average
kinetic energy of the elastic polymers in the rubber rises, increasing their ability to respond to
changes in force, thus allowing the ball to further compress and store more elastic potential
energy. The area enclosed by the hysteresis loop decreases as the curves become more linear, thus
reducing energy dissipation and increasing the contact time between the ball and the bob. An
increased force exerted by the gas molecules on the ball’s wall, thus the ball on the bob, and an
increased contact time due to the greater deformation from more stored elastic potential energy,
both increase the impulse of the collision ! FΔt = Δp . This leads to a greater change in momentum
of the pendulum bob, and assuming no energy losses in the collision, the gravitational potential
energy will also increase according to the equation: ! E p gain = Ek loss = 12 mv 2 .

Independent variable: The temperature of the squash ball (T)
The ball will be submerged in a water bath and the temperature will be measured using a Vernier
temperature probe. The water bath’s heat settings will be used to increase the temperature from
20°C onwards and ice will be mixed into the water bath for tests below room temperature at 1°C
and 10°C. The water bath will be continuously stirred to ensure the thermal energy of the water is
distributed equally so that the probe measurement is an accurate measure of the ball’s
temperature. It is assumed that the temperature of the ball is the same as that of the surrounding
water, as the ball will be submerged for five minutes at each temperature, allowing the system to
reach a constant equilibrium temperature. The temperature probe was chosen instead of a
thermometer for its smaller uncertainty of ±0.2°C versus ±0.5°C and its ability to respond to
changes in temperature quickly. The range of temperatures will be from 1.0°C to 70.0°C in
increments of 10.0°C. Note 0°C is not used because water would undergo a state shift into ice.

Dependent variable: Gravitational potential energy gained by the pendulum bob after collision
with squash ball (Ep)
After the collision between the squash ball and pendulum bob at the point (0,0), the bob will
swing in an arc due to the force exerted on it by the squash ball and the tension in the string to a
point (x, h2) where it reaches its maximum gravitational potential energy. This will be directly
calculated from the measurement of the maximum horizontal displacement of the ball from rest x,

using ! h2 = l − l 2 − x 2 and then ! E p = mgh2 . Since it reaches this point for a fraction of second, a

video camera (Canon Legria HF R306) will be set up in front of the pendulum to film each trial. A
frame-by-frame analysis on Apple iMovie will be used to identify the maximum height and the
displacement x will be measured using a metre ruler behind the pendulum for reference.

For precise measurements, the experiment will be in direct sunlight so enough light can be
captured by the aperture to discern the difference between millimetre marks on the ruler, the
frame rate will be to set to a high setting (60fps) to capture the exact moment of maximum
displacement and the camera must be set up in front of the estimated region where the ball will
swing to (~20-40 cm) since the extremes of the frame will be distorted by the camera lens,
preventing an accurate measurement.

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Controlled Why will this variable be controlled? How will this
Variables variable be

Type of The type of polymers used in the squash ball are linked to the speed A yellow-dot
squash ball rating of the ball. Slower “blue” balls will have elastic polymers TecnoPro squash
which are able to be compressed to a greater extent than faster ball will be used.
“yellow” balls which do not compress as much. Since the elastic The yellow dot
potential energy is! E p = 12 kΔx 2 , a greater proportion of the initial rating also means
the ball has quite a
kinetic energy of the blue ball will be converted into elastic potential
low coefficient of
energy due to a smaller elastic constant ! k , decreasing the area
restitution and will
enclosed by the hysteresis loop and thus energy loss. Thus, the
also lose thermal
contact time increases between the ball and the bob, resulting in a
energy quicker.
greater change in momentum and a greater gain in gravitational
potential energy.

Secondly, the type of gas used in the ball also plays a role in the The same yellow-
proportionality of pressure to temperature. This will be shown using dot TecnoPro
the ideal gas law to model the gas inside the ball. squash ball will be
Ideal gas law: pV = nRT used so the
Molar mass: M r = m
,n = m p = pressure m = mass enclosed gas is
n Mr
assumed to remain
V = volume M r = molar mass
! Density: ρ = =
m m
,V ρ ! the same, thus will
n = amount (mol) ρ = density have constant
RT ρ RT density and molar
p= = = T = temperature
V m
Mr mass.

Therefore, pressure is directly proportional to the temperature only if

density and molar mass of the gas remain constant.

Location of At the moment of collision, the impulse is equal to the change in !

v = 2gh1
contact momentum ! Δp of the pendulum bob. Depending on where the
between squash ball makes contact with the bob, the contact time will change.
squash ball For example, if the ball makes contact at a point below the centre of !
and the bob’s mass, there will be a component of the force in the upwards !
pendulum direction, meaning the bob might follow a chaotic pattern instead of The pendulum bob
an arc as the string is not in tension. If the ball makes contact at a will be placed such
point above of the bob’s mass, the component of the force in the that the contact
direction of the arc is much smaller and the ball will likely pass over location will be at
the bob. In both these cases, the contact time is decreased, decreasing the point on the
the impulse equal to the ! Δp of the bob. This means the initial velocity imaginary line
of the bob is less, decreasing the gravitational potential energy (Ep) connecting their
gain. centres is parallel
to the slope, shown
in red.

Height of The height of the ramp or the vertical distance through which the The height will by
ramp squash ball falls through affects the initial gravitational potential 1 m measured with
a metre stick. This
energy. Since ! v = 2gh2 , increasing the height of the ramp will
will result in a
increase the final velocity of the squash ball. The efficiency of the velocity of:
energy transfer between the ball and the bob is being indirectly
v= 2 × 9.81 × 1
measured by the Ep gained. Since there is an elastic limit to the !
deformation of the ball, the ability of the ball to absorb elastic = 4.43 m s
potential energy will lessen, thus meaning a greater proportion of
kinetic energy is dissipated as heat in the collision. This will result in
a smaller force acting on the bob, decreasing Δp and thus the Ep gain.

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Controlled Why will this variable be controlled? How will this
Variables variable be

Length of The length of the

The period of a pendulum T is defined as! T = 2π l
where l is the
string string will be 0.5 m
length of the string and g is gravitational acceleration. Increasing the which results in a
length will increase the period and the air resistance. A longer length period of:
also increases friction between the string and the metal clamp at the
pivot point. Both these result in energy loss to surroundings, T = 2π
! 9.81
reducing the maximum Ep of the bob. It is assumed that the mass of
the string is negligible. = 1.42 s

Mass of At the moment of collision, momentum is transferred between the The mass of the
squash ball ball and the bob where the final velocity of the ball is a function of its squash ball is
and original height and the initial velocity of the bob determines the 23.21±0.01 g and
pendulum maximum Ep. Momentum is the product of mass and velocity, thus the mass of the
bob both the masses taking part in the event must be controlled to pendulum bob is
prevent a different initial velocity of the bob. 67.35±0.01 g.

Safety Precautions
The squash ball will be heated to high temperatures up to 70°C. To prevent burns, metal crucible
tongs must be used to handle the ball at all times, including picking it up from the floor, especially
at temperatures over 45°C, the average temperature of a squash ball in game.


Quantity Material Quantity Material
1 Water bath (range: 20-100°C) 7 Sheets of A6 paper

1 dm3 Water 1 Roll of tape

30 Small ice cubes 1 Small 10 cm tall stand

1 Glass stirring rod 1 Camera (Canon Legria HF R306)

1 TecnoPro yellow-dot squash ball

1 Metal crucible tongs

1 Vernier stainless steel temperature

probe (±0.2°C)

1 Vernier Go!Link wire

1 Laptop with Logger Pro software

1 2.5 m wooden V-shaped ramp

2 Stands

3 Clamps

1 1 m ruler (±0.5 mm)

0.5 m Light inextensible string

1 Pendulum bob

1 Poster stand

1 Top-pan balance (±0.01 g)

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1. Setup (see diagram 1 above)
1. Place one stand on top of a table slightly more than a metre above the ground and
another stand on the floor.
2. Place wooden ramp on clamps attached to these two stands, measuring a 1.000 m in
vertical height from the start and finish of the ramp using the metre ruler.
3. Attach pendulum bob to string and tie it to a clamp attached to the stand at the bottom
of the ramp to act as the pivot of the pendulum. Ensure that the bob is located at the
end of the ramp where the point of collision is at the widest point in both the ball and
the bob.
4. Place the metre ruler behind the pendulum, parallel to the ramp, to measure the
horizontal displacement where the “0 cm” mark lines up with the start of the bob.
5. Setup a poster stand perpendicular to the direction of the ramp to capture the ball after
each trial.
6. Place camera at the height of the pendulum and between the ruler measurements of
20-40 cm. Set the frame rate to 60 fps and use manual focus to bring ruler into focus.
The ruler tick marks must be clearly discerned in the video.
7. On the laptop, launch Logger Pro and connect the temperature probe via the Go!Link
8. Fill water bath with 1 dm3 water, or sufficient to submerge the squash ball.
9. Using top-pan balance, measure the masses of the squash ball and pendulum bob.
2. Place squash ball in water bath, adjusting the desired temperature using either the water
bath setting for an increase or ice cubes for a decrease, and monitoring the exact
temperature with the temperature probe. For the first trial, this temperature will be 1°C.
3. Stir gently with the glass stirring rod to distribute heat and submerge entire ball using
crucible tongs.
4. Write down the specified temperature of the test on an A6 sheet. Attach it to the 10 cm
stand behind the ruler with tape.
5. Write down the trial number on the A6 sheet and begin recording on the camera.
6. Take the ball out quickly with crucible tongs and place at top of ramp.
7. Release the ball without any initial velocity and record qualitative observations about the
motion of the ball and pendulum bob thereafter.
8. Stop the video recording and return squash ball to water bath. Ensure that the pendulum
bob is at rest.
9. Repeat steps 5-8 four more times, increasing the trial number in step 5.
10. Repeat steps 2-9 six more times, increasing the temperature of the water in step 2 to 10, 20,
30, 40, 50, 60, 70 °C.

Data Justification
I will use the temperatures of 1, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 °C (total of 8 independent variable
changes). I will repeat each temperature five times.

Equation 1: ! E p = mg l − l 2 − x 2 ) - see appendix 1

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Calculations - using example of T = 1°C
1. I will calculate the mean by adding up the trials and dividing by the number of trials. For
example: (25.5 + 24.6 + 23.4 + 24.0 + 23.8 + 24.5 + 25.7)/7 = 24.5 cm (3sf)
2. I will calculate the uncertainty for each average by taking the absolute difference between the
average and the furthest away trial value. For example: the average is 24.5 cm where the
highest and lowest value in the raw data were 25.7 cm and 23.4 cm respectively. Therefore
25.7 - 24.5 = ±1.2 cm as the uncertainty.
3. I will calculate Ep from x values by using equation 1.
4. I will calculate the uncertainty for each Ep value by taking the fractional uncertainty of the
average displacement x values (absolute uncertainty/average x value). I then do the inverse
operation (fractional uncertainty x Ep) to find the absolute uncertainty of Ep. In this case, the
fractional uncertainty is 1.2/24.5 = 0.049 so the absolute uncertainty of Ep will be ±0.0021 J.
5. I will calculate R2 for measuring how close my results are to the regression line using an excel
! function.

Table 1: Raw Data

Table showing how the temperature of the squash ball T affects the maximum horizontal
displacement of pendulum bob after collision with the squash ball.
Maximum horizontal displacement of the pendulum bob (x) / cm
Temperature of
Δx=±0.1 cm
squash ball (T) / °C
ΔT=±0.2°C Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Trial 4 Trial 5 Trial 6* Trial 7*

1.0 25.5 24.6 23.4 24.0 23.8 24.5 25.7

10.0 27.7 26.8 27.9 27.1 27.0 27.5

20.0 28.1 28.6 26.5 27.3 26.8 28.1 28.6

30.0 28.4 27.5 27.9 27.4 27.7 26.7 28.7

40.0 27.4 29.1 28.9 28.8 28.2 26.9 29.3

50.0 31.2 29.5 27.4 29.5 29.3

60.0 32.3 31.8 31.8 32.1 30.0 29.3 31.3

70.0 33.4 33.1 33.5 32.3 31.4 31.3 34.4

*Some tests had sufficient time for trials 6 and 7 to reduce random error.

Qualitative Observations
1. Before trials, the squash ball was not completely submerged
2. The temperature readings kept fluctuating 0.2°C above and below the desired values,
especially at high temperatures where the readings were slowly decreasing.
3. For the 1°C test, the temperature values were constantly increasing and were not constant.
4. The distortion of the lens affecting the accuracy of the reading. Measurements to the right of
the centre will have smaller values while measurements to the left will have greater values.
5. After taking it out of the water, the ball lost heat quickly.
6. The ball did not strike the bob at its exact centre, resulting in a non-parallel component of
velocity to the ramp/ruler.
7. The clamp pivot point about which the pendulum swings is not perpendicular to its movement
8. 60 fps is too slow to measure length precisely.

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9. At high temperatures, when I dropped it on the floor, it had a higher bounce than before and is
able to be compressed more.
Table 2: Processed Data
Table showing how the temperature of the squash ball affects the average maximum displacement
and the gain in gravitational potential energy of the of the pendulum bob after collision.
Temperature of Average maximum horizontal Average gravitational potential
squash ball (T) / K displacement of the pendulum bob energy gained by pendulum bob
ΔT=±0.2 K (x) / cm (Ep) / J

274.15 24.5 ±1.2 0.0424 ±0.0021

283.15 27.3 ±0.6 0.0537 ±0.0011

293.15 27.7 ±1.2 0.0554 ±0.0024

303.15 27.8 ±1.1 0.0556 ±0.0021

313.15 28.4 ±1.5 0.0583 ±0.0030

323.15 29.4 ±2.0 0.0630 ±0.0042

333.15 31.2 ±1.9 0.0724 ±0.0045

343.15 32.8 ±1.6 0.0809 ±0.0040

Graph 1: Linear and Cubic Fit

As the temperature of the squash ball (T) increased, the gravitational potential energy gained
by the pendulum bob (Ep) after the collision increased. For example, when T was at 274.15 K, Ep
was consistently low at 0.0424 J but when T was at 343.15 K, Ep was consistently higher at 0.0809 J.

This could be interpreted as a linear trend as shown in graph 1 in blue with the equation:
E p = 0.0005T − 0.0833 . The gradient of 0.0005 J K-1 predicts that an increase of 1 K would lead to
a proportionally smaller increase in the EP gained of 0.0005 J. The y-intercept of -0.0833 J is
impossible as it predicts that at absolute zero (0 K), the bob loses 0.0833 J of potential energy. In
addition, although the trendline has quite a high R2 value of 90%, this is misleading because data

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points lie above and below the curve in a clear pattern that does not conform to the line. The small
error bars cannot account for the large distance from certain data points like the 283.15 K test
which has the smallest error bar. In terms of scientific reasoning, this supports the hypothesis that
the temperature is positively correlated with the gravitational potential energy gain, however, it
does not accurately reflect all data points.

Another way of interpreting this trend is as a cubic relationship as shown by the orange curve in
graph 1 with the equation: ! E p = 3× 10−7 T 3 − 0.0003T 2 + 0.0836T − 8.46 . This curve fits the data

better as it comfortably passes through all error bars except 283.15 K and the R2 value is higher at
98%. There are two key features of this curve. Firstly, extrapolating the curve beyond the
temperature range predicts a much larger derivative of Ep with respect to T, meaning that as the
temperature increases beyond 343.15 K for example, the gain in gravitational potential energy will
become increasingly greater. The second feature is the point of inflection at 303.15 K which almost
looks like a horizontal turning point at 293.15 K where Ep seems to remain constant, given the
error bars. This inflection or turning point around 293.15-303.15 K (20-30°C) is called the glass
transition temperature Tg where the behaviour of the elastomers in the squash ball changes from a
hard rigid glassy material below Tg to a softer rubbery material above Tg. A single theoretical
explanation for the phenomenon of glass transition has not yet been found but the findings can be
summarised as this: when a force is applied to compress the squash ball, thus the polymer chains,
at a low temperature below Tg, the rate at which the polymer chains can re-orientate themselves in
response to a compressive force, is less than the rate at which the compressive force increases as
the lower average kinetic energy of the polymer chains decreases their mobility. There is a specific
temperature or temperature range (Tg) above which the re-orientation rate is greater than or equal
to the applied force rate, meaning that the polymer chains become more liquid-like and can
respond to a compressive force by re-orientating themselves due to their greater average kinetic
energy, and thus mobility. This transition between the two states corresponds to an inflexion point
or turning point in the graph of any elastomer, when a measure of elasticity (in this case the
gravitational potential energy gained by the pendulum bob) is plotted against temperature.

Validity of Results and Method

The conclusion that there is a positive correlation
between the temperature of the squash ball and the gain
in gravitational potential energy by the pendulum bob
could be validated by a similar experiment on which measured the rebound height
as the dependent variable instead of Ep gain but is still a
measure of elasticity. The linear trendline does show
the positive relationship but not the dip at 10°C or
the plateauing at high temperatures. The cubic
trendline does seem to mirror the shape of the curve,
especially the minimum located around 10°C albeit
having a point of inflection at a higher temperature
of 20-30°C. At temperatures above 20°C, the graphs
diverge as plateaus while the cubic
trendline continues to increase. The plateauing of the
graph at high temperatures is expected as there is a limit to the deformation of the ball (elastic

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limit). Another experiment by Lewis suggests a quadratic relationship with a maximum in
hysteresis at T=20°C, corresponding to a minimum in the coefficient of restitution and thus the
elasticity. This again supports the cubic trendline due to the similar point of inflection at the Tg but
however, suggests that below Tg, hysteresis decreases, increasing the elasticity of the ball, going
against what is commonly observed as cold temperatures corresponding to a low bounce. Overall,
both these experiments support the positive relationship between T and Ep, and the theory of glass
transition temperature corresponding to an elasticity minimum or inflection.

In terms of uncertainties, the measurements were quite precise, especially involving the camera
and the ruler. The relatively small uncertainty of ±0.2°C in the temperature probe with a
responsive reading on the laptop, allowed precise measurements for temperature to be made,
almost eliminating the horizontal error bars. The displacement measurements using the camera
and ruler were also quite precise with a percentage uncertainty of 2-7%. This meant the vertical
error bars were quite small but they actually increased in magnitude as temperature increased.
This is most likely because the ball loses thermal energy quicker at higher temperatures according
to the Stefan-Boltzmann law and since this loss increases with time, a small difference in the time
when transferring the ball from the water bath to the ramp can affect the final actual temperature.

In comparison to the experiment on and the results predicted by scientific

reasoning, the trend in the data values for the higher temperatures had an increasing derivative
while the derivative should be decreasing due to the plateauing effect. This means either an
increasing systematic error occurred to shift the Ep values for the higher temperatures upwards or
a systematic error shifted all the real temperatures downwards, thus the temperature at which the
plateau effect would take effect would not be reached.

Issue Effect on data (scientific reasoning) Improvements How the
to method improvement
removes the error

1. This was the most significant systematic error Wrap a 100 cm3 The ball will be
Systematic for this experiment as it affects all values for the beaker in exposed to the cold
error: Heat temperature. According to the behaviour aluminium foil. surroundings for a
loss from observed in observations 2 and 5, the squash When removing shorter period of time,
squash ball ball acts as a black body as it is opaque and non- the ball from the thus reducing the
reflective, emitting infrared radiation to its water bath, keep energy that can be lost
surroundings, shown using the formula it submerged by according to the
! P = eσ AT . Assuming the ball is a perfect black scooping both the equation. However,

water and ball this is unlikely to

body, e must be 1 and the area is ! 4 π r where r is

into the beaker. completely remove

20 cm or 0.2 m:
Transport the the systematic error
( )
P = 1× 5.67 × 10 −8 × 4π × 0.02 T 4 beaker with the because the ball must
−10 4 ball to the ramp always be exposed to
= 2.85 × 10 T
and take it out the air as it accelerates
Therefore the energy lost per second by the ball
quickly with the down the slope.
is directly proportional to its temperature raised
tongs to place on
to the fourth power. The time delay between
the ramp.
removing it from the water bath and the point
of actual collision means the ball loses heat
energy very quickly and the Ep values are
shifted downwards due to the decreased real

- 10
! -
Issue Effect on data (scientific reasoning) Improvements How the
to method improvement
removes the error

2. Another systematic error that caused a similar The ball will be The temperature of
Systematic effect to the evaluation point 1 was that the submerged for the ball will have
error: Lack squash ball was only submerged for roughly five minutes enough time to reach
of time of thirty seconds between each trial. This meant between trials. an equilibrium with
squash ball that the ball’s temperature would not reach an Similar the water’s
equilibrium with the temperature of the water experiments can temperature. Thus,
in sufficient time, thus causing all temperature wait up to one the temperature probe
to water
values to shift towards room temperature, thus hour, however, measurement will be
decreasing the real temperature of the ball due to time accurate and Ep will
during the collision, thus decreasing Ep values. constraints, five increase for high T
minutes is values.

3. Random Another major factor that contributed to error, Place two sheets The first improvement
error: Off- specifically random error, were off-centre of a hard material restricts the path of
centre collisions. From observation no. 6, it can be seen like wood or the squash ball to a
collision that one of my controlled variables was not metal on either straight line with a
controlled. Due to the bob’s tendency to stay in side of the ramp direct collision with
motion without being acted upon by any at the point of the bob without
resultant force, the ball often struck the bob off contact between chance of bouncing to
centre. Common observations would be the ball the ball and the side. Second
bouncing off to the side or the bob undergoing bob. Also, check improvement ensures
erratic movement instead of following an arc before releasing bob is at right position
path. Since the ball did not make contact in the the squash ball, if to be struck by the
same location, the contact time would change, the bob is ball. Both these
changing the change in momentum and completely still. improvements make
affecting the final gravitational potential energy. sure that the contact is
Often, this effect was almost systematic because consistent for all tests
so many results were measured from the bob and the point of
not following an arc, dispersing energy in the collusion has the
string for example. potential for the
greater momentum

4. Random After reviewing the footage, as shown in my Before each test, Both these techniques
error: Lens fourth observation, it was clear that run a preliminary work to reduce the
distortion measurements made to the side suffered from a trial to test distortion effect by
affecting consistent measurement error. Without the roughly the 10 simply ensuring the
displace- camera aligned at the maximum point, the cm region where light reach the lens in
image becomes distorted caused by the position the bob will a ray perpendicular to
of the camera relative to the bob and ruler. This swing to and the ruler. This will
could be a problem, especially with the high place camera at ensure accurate
temperatures because the measurements will be this point. Also, readings for all
over predicted as the bob swings past the centre move camera displacements.
of the lens. Simply put, the more extreme the back by 10 cm to
bob position in the camera, the more distorted measure a wider
the reading will be and become less accurate . angle.

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Issue Effect on data (scientific reasoning) Improvements How the
to method improvement
removes the error

5. As shown in observation no. 1, the ball was not Hold squash ball The entire ball will be
Systematic fully submerged in the water bath. This means in place using submerged and the
error: Ball there is a portion of the ball that may not have crucible tongs for thermal energy of the
not the same temperature and may be losing heat to at least 30 ball will be equally
completely the surroundings, given that it is a black body. seconds before distributed. This will
Therefore, since the thermal energy may not be transferring it to make the actual
distributed equally throughout the ball, the the ramp. temperature closer to
overall temperature may fall as it reaches an the assumption that
equilibrium, thus having the same effect as the ball’s temperature
evaluation point 1. is the water’s
temperature, thus
removing the
systematic error.

6. Random Finally, the frame-rate of the camera was too Use a high speed Quadrupling the
error: Slow slow to take a perfect reading of the horizontal camera like an frame rate will mean
frame-rate displacement. Using a kinematics equation with iPhone to record it is more likely that
of 60 fps h being the vertical height the ball gains, the at 240 fps. the frame where the
frames in the time before the maximum height velocity is zero will be
can be estimated: captured. This will
h = 12 gt 2 allow the correct
reading to be taken
t= 2h
= 2×0.1
= 0.1 s and eliminate the
random error.
60 frames
1 second
= x frames
0.1 seconds

x = 6 frames
With only six frames in the period leading up to
the maximum height, capturing the exact frame
may not be possible and there will be a random

Further Investigation
To gather more information on how the temperature affects the potential energy gain, a wider
range of temperatures should be measured to see if the graph plateaus or not. Of course, this
would be limited by the rapid heat loss at high temperatures, thus, the squash ball could achieve
their final velocity using a spring to launch it instead of a ramp which takes too long. The
traditional method of testing the elasticity of the squash ball, where the initial and the rebound
height of a dropped ball are compared to find the coefficient of restitution, could be used to
compare and support or refute the conclusion of this investigation. The elasticity of the different
types of squash balls (“double yellow-dot”, “blue”) could be measured to investigate how each
ball would perform at the same temperature and perhaps investigate the change in the glass
transition temperature by examining change in the inflection point.

This results of this investigation were fascinating for me as I now understand the exact
relationship between the temperature and the elasticity of my squash ball. Since I now know that
the glass transition temperature is around 20-30°C, whenever I play squash, I should make sure
the ball is warmed up above this temperature to optimise the speed of the game. When I play in
Dubai, I should use a more bouncy “blue” ball with a lower glass transition temperature to
compensate for the low temperature of the court and ensure consistency in my game. 

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! -
1. “Choosing the Right Squash Ball.” Squash Rackets, Squash Rackets, 30 Oct. 2016,

2. Landman, Mattie. “Squash Ball Materials.” Squash Ball Materials, 27 Sept. 2014,

3. Lewis, Gareth J., et al. “The Dynamic Behavior of Squash Balls.” American Journal of Physics,
vol. 79, no. 3, 2011, pp. 291–296., doi:10.1119/1.3531971.

4. Popa, Adrian. “Re: How Does the Temperature of a Squash Ball Affect the Height of
Bounce?” MadSci Network, 27 July 1998,

1. Circle equation: ( x − h ) + ( y − k ) = r 2
2 2

h = 0,k = l,r = l
∴ ( x − 0) + ( y − l ) = l 2
2 2

( y − l)
= l 2 − x2
y − l = ± l 2 − x2
y = l ± l 2 − x2
Since point is in bottom half of circle:
y = l − l 2 − x2
h2 = l − l 2 − x 2

∴ E p = mg l − l 2 − x 2 )