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CaliforniaPhysicsStandard2g Sendcommentsto:layton@physics.ucla.

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2.Thelawsofconservationofenergyandmomentumprovideawaytopredictand
describethemovementofobjects.Asabasisforunderstandingthisconcept:
g.Studentsknowhowtosolveproblemsinvolvingelasticandinelasticcollisionsin
onedimensionusingtheprinciplesofconservationofmomentumandenergy.

MomentumEnergyDemonstrationCartsandTrack.
Explainingthebasicsofmomentumandenergyconservationduringelasticandinelastic
collisionscanbemuchenhancedwithtwocartsonalowfrictiontrack.Thecartscanbe
fittedwithrepellingmagnetsononeendandVelcroontheothertohelpwiththe
demonstrations.Pascosellsexcellentexamplesoftracksandcartsforthispurposebut
theyarenotcheap.Cynmarhasseveralcartsthatcouldbemodifiedforthispurposesuch
astheirGeneralPurposeCart(0951851)butitwouldstillrequireconstructingatrack.
Pitscosellswheelsataveryreasonablepricebutthiswouldrequireconstructionofboth
thecartsandthetrack.However,theeducationalvalueofhavingatrackwithtwocarts
thatcanbeweighteddifferentlyandthatcanbemadetointeractelasticallyor
inelasticallyissovaluable,everyeffortshouldbemadetoobtainsuchequipment.The
essentialspecificationforthisequipmentisthatthetwocartsshouldhavelowfriction
wheels,theyshouldbeabletobeweighteddifferently,theyshouldhaveelasticand
inelasticbumpersandtheyshouldbeconfinedtomoveinonedirectionwithalinear
track.Itisusefulifthetrackcanbeeasilyelevatedandleveledsotheentireclasscansee
it.

Explosionsandrocketbasics.

Usingtwocartsofthesamemasswith
magnetsrepelling,pressthecartstogether
andreleasethematthesametime.
Discusshowtherepulsiveforcesmustbe
equal(Newtons3rdLaw)andthetimes Ft = - Ft
thecartsactoneachcartmustbeequal,
henceeachmustreceivethesameimpulse
inoppositedirections.

Sincethemagnitudeoftheimpulseoneachcartisthesame,theywilleachreceivethe
samemomentuminoppositedirectionsandwillmoveatthesamespeed.Nowrepeat
thisexplosiononlywithoneofthecartsweighted.Thistimetheimpulsewillstillbe
thesameoneachcarthencethechangeinmomentumwillbethesamebutthespeedsof
eachwillbedifferent,ininverseproportiontothemasses. A very interesting demonstration can be
performed with this apparatus by
carefully balancing the carts and track on
a fulcrum before the explosion and then
releasing the carts. If carefully done,
they will remain balanced for a short
while showing that the center of mass is
unchangedan important concept when
discussing rocket propulsion.
ElasticCollisions.

Itisimportanttostressthatinelasticcollisions,kineticenergyaswellasmomentumis
conserved.Theforcesthatactbetweenthecollidingbodiesareconservativeandwill
returnalloftheenergythatwastemporarilystoredwhenthebodieswereattheirclosest
distanceseparation.(Anotherwayofsayingaspringormagnetinteractionisperfectly
elasticistosaytheforcedependsonlyuponseparation.Springsareelasticsincetheir
restoringforcedependsonlyonthedistancetheyarecompressedorstretched.Ballsof
puttyexertoneforcewhentheyarecompressedbutdonotreturnthisforceanddonot
elasticallyexpandagain.)Studentsmightappreciatethefollowingargumentinvolving
worktoshowthatthekineticenergythatistemporarilystoredaspotentialenergywhen
theobjectsareatminimumseparationwillallbereturnedifthebumpersareperfectly
elastic.
The important point to realize is
that if the spring is perfectly M1 M2
elastic, the force applied on M1
while it slows down will always Distance M1 moves during interaction
be equal and opposite to the force
that speeds up M2 for the entire
distance of the complete
interaction. Since force and
distance represent work, the
work done in slowing M1
exactly equals the work done in
speeding up M2. The kinetic
energy lost by M1 is transferred Distance M2moves during interaction
to M2. If, on the other hand, the
spring had been inelastic (say a
coil of soft solder) it would not
have returned the energy after
compression and more energy Force no longer acts.
would have been lost by M1 than
would have been gained by M2.

Momentumisalwaysconservedsincetheforceandtimearethesamenomatterhowfar
eachobjectmovesduringtheinteraction.Theelasticcollisiontransfersbothmomentum
andkineticenergy.Theinelasticcollisionalsoobservesmomentumconservationbutnot
kineticenergyconservation.Itisalsointerestingtonotethatduringtheheartofthe
elasticcollision,evenkineticenergyisnotconservedsincesomeenergyistemporarily
storedinthespringaspotentialenergy.

Solvingelasticandinelasticcollisionproblems.
Solvinginelasticcollisionproblemsinonedimensionisfairlystraightforwardsincethe
twoobjectssticktogetherafterthecollision,thereforemoveatthesamevelocity.A
simpleexamplewouldbe:

Findthefinalvelocityifamassm1movingatvelocityv1collidesinelasticallywitha
massm2movingatvelocityv2.Sincetheysticktogether,weapplymomentum
conservation:

m1v1+m2v2=(m1+m2)vandsolvingforvissimplealgebra.

However,ifthesameproblemissaidtobeaperfectlyelasticcollision,themasseswillbe
movingatdifferentvelocitiesafterthecollisionandwillinvolvesolvingtwoequationsin
twounknowns.Althoughthisisnotimpossible,itwillinvolvealittlemessyalgebra.
Wewilldothissolutionherebecausethefinalresultisinterestinganduseful.Again,
massm1movingatvelocityv1collideswithmassm2movingatvelocityv2andthe
collisionisperfectlyelastic.Theproblemistofindthefinalvelocityv1ofmassm1and
thevelocityv2ofmassm2afterthecollision.

FromKEconservation:1/2m1(v1)2+1/2m2(v2)2=1/2m1(v1)2+1/2m2(v2)2Eq.(1)

andfrommomentumconservationm1v1+m2v2=m1v1+m2v2 Eq.(2)

Rearrangeequation(1)soalltermsinm1areononesideoftheequationandm2ontheother:

1/2m1(v1)21/2m1(v1)2=1/2m2(v2)21/2m2(v2)2

Dividingbothsidesbyandfactoringm1andm2:m1[v12(v1)2]=m2[(v2)2v22]

Fromthedifferenceoftwosquares:m1(v1+v1)(v1v1)=m2(v2+v2)(v2v2)Eq.(3)

RearrangingEq.(2)m1v1m1v1=m2v2m2v2or:m1(v1v1)=m2(v2v2)Eq.(4)

Dividingequation(3)byequation(4)yields:v1+v1=v2+v2

Rearrangingthisequationgivesaninterestingresult:Eq.(5)
v1 v2 = v2 v1
Thisisnotyetthesolutiontotheproblembutitsayssomethingveryimportant.This
equationsaystherelativevelocitybeforethecollisionequalsminustherelativevelocity
afterthecollision.Thisisalwaystrueinallperfectlyelasticcollisions.Ifthebaseballis
perfectlyelastic,thevelocitytheballandbatapproachoneanotherbeforecollisionwill
alwaysequalthevelocityofseparationafterthecollision.Asuperballshouldbounce
upwiththesamespeedithadjustbeforestrikingthefloor.Thisequationalsomakesit
easytosolvetheoriginalproblem.Nowwithequation(2)andequation(5)wehavetwo
simplelinearequationsthatcanbeeasilysolvedsimultaneouslyforv1andv2
Perfectlyelasticproblemcanbeamesstosolveusingsimultaneoussolutionsofkinetic
energyandmomentumequationsbuttheresultthatthevelocityofapproachbeforethe
collisionmustequalthevelocityofseparationafterthecollisioncanmakethese
problemsmucheasiertosolve.

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