Education Technology

Collisions in One Dimension

Published on 08/09/2010

Activity Overview

Students use the law of conservation of momentum to determine the momentums and velocities of objects involved in perfectly inelastic collisions.

Key Steps

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    Students investigate the relationships between velocity, kinetic energy, and momentum during perfectly inelastic one-dimensional collisions.


    First, students examine a simulation of one ice skater throwing a snowball to another. The first ice skater has an initial non-zero velocity, and the second ice skater is initially at rest.

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    Next, students make a graph of the position of the snowball vs. time. They assume a scenario in which the first skater holds the snowball for four seconds before throwing it to the second skater.

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    Finally, students calculate the kinetic energy of the snowball and the skaters before and after the throw. They use these calculations to describe the effects of inelastic collisions on kinetic energy.