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College Physics for AP® Courses

8.3 Conservation of Momentum

College Physics for AP® Courses8.3 Conservation of Momentum
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  1. Preface
  2. 1 Introduction: The Nature of Science and Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 1.1 Physics: An Introduction
    3. 1.2 Physical Quantities and Units
    4. 1.3 Accuracy, Precision, and Significant Figures
    5. 1.4 Approximation
    6. Glossary
    7. Section Summary
    8. Conceptual Questions
    9. Problems & Exercises
  3. 2 Kinematics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 2.1 Displacement
    3. 2.2 Vectors, Scalars, and Coordinate Systems
    4. 2.3 Time, Velocity, and Speed
    5. 2.4 Acceleration
    6. 2.5 Motion Equations for Constant Acceleration in One Dimension
    7. 2.6 Problem-Solving Basics for One Dimensional Kinematics
    8. 2.7 Falling Objects
    9. 2.8 Graphical Analysis of One Dimensional Motion
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
    14. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  4. 3 Two-Dimensional Kinematics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 3.1 Kinematics in Two Dimensions: An Introduction
    3. 3.2 Vector Addition and Subtraction: Graphical Methods
    4. 3.3 Vector Addition and Subtraction: Analytical Methods
    5. 3.4 Projectile Motion
    6. 3.5 Addition of Velocities
    7. Glossary
    8. Section Summary
    9. Conceptual Questions
    10. Problems & Exercises
    11. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  5. 4 Dynamics: Force and Newton's Laws of Motion
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 4.1 Development of Force Concept
    3. 4.2 Newton's First Law of Motion: Inertia
    4. 4.3 Newton's Second Law of Motion: Concept of a System
    5. 4.4 Newton's Third Law of Motion: Symmetry in Forces
    6. 4.5 Normal, Tension, and Other Examples of Force
    7. 4.6 Problem-Solving Strategies
    8. 4.7 Further Applications of Newton's Laws of Motion
    9. 4.8 Extended Topic: The Four Basic Forces—An Introduction
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
    14. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  6. 5 Further Applications of Newton's Laws: Friction, Drag, and Elasticity
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 5.1 Friction
    3. 5.2 Drag Forces
    4. 5.3 Elasticity: Stress and Strain
    5. Glossary
    6. Section Summary
    7. Conceptual Questions
    8. Problems & Exercises
    9. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  7. 6 Gravitation and Uniform Circular Motion
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 6.1 Rotation Angle and Angular Velocity
    3. 6.2 Centripetal Acceleration
    4. 6.3 Centripetal Force
    5. 6.4 Fictitious Forces and Non-inertial Frames: The Coriolis Force
    6. 6.5 Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation
    7. 6.6 Satellites and Kepler's Laws: An Argument for Simplicity
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  8. 7 Work, Energy, and Energy Resources
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 7.1 Work: The Scientific Definition
    3. 7.2 Kinetic Energy and the Work-Energy Theorem
    4. 7.3 Gravitational Potential Energy
    5. 7.4 Conservative Forces and Potential Energy
    6. 7.5 Nonconservative Forces
    7. 7.6 Conservation of Energy
    8. 7.7 Power
    9. 7.8 Work, Energy, and Power in Humans
    10. 7.9 World Energy Use
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
    15. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  9. 8 Linear Momentum and Collisions
    1. Connection for AP® courses
    2. 8.1 Linear Momentum and Force
    3. 8.2 Impulse
    4. 8.3 Conservation of Momentum
    5. 8.4 Elastic Collisions in One Dimension
    6. 8.5 Inelastic Collisions in One Dimension
    7. 8.6 Collisions of Point Masses in Two Dimensions
    8. 8.7 Introduction to Rocket Propulsion
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  10. 9 Statics and Torque
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 9.1 The First Condition for Equilibrium
    3. 9.2 The Second Condition for Equilibrium
    4. 9.3 Stability
    5. 9.4 Applications of Statics, Including Problem-Solving Strategies
    6. 9.5 Simple Machines
    7. 9.6 Forces and Torques in Muscles and Joints
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  11. 10 Rotational Motion and Angular Momentum
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 10.1 Angular Acceleration
    3. 10.2 Kinematics of Rotational Motion
    4. 10.3 Dynamics of Rotational Motion: Rotational Inertia
    5. 10.4 Rotational Kinetic Energy: Work and Energy Revisited
    6. 10.5 Angular Momentum and Its Conservation
    7. 10.6 Collisions of Extended Bodies in Two Dimensions
    8. 10.7 Gyroscopic Effects: Vector Aspects of Angular Momentum
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  12. 11 Fluid Statics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 11.1 What Is a Fluid?
    3. 11.2 Density
    4. 11.3 Pressure
    5. 11.4 Variation of Pressure with Depth in a Fluid
    6. 11.5 Pascal’s Principle
    7. 11.6 Gauge Pressure, Absolute Pressure, and Pressure Measurement
    8. 11.7 Archimedes’ Principle
    9. 11.8 Cohesion and Adhesion in Liquids: Surface Tension and Capillary Action
    10. 11.9 Pressures in the Body
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
    15. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  13. 12 Fluid Dynamics and Its Biological and Medical Applications
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 12.1 Flow Rate and Its Relation to Velocity
    3. 12.2 Bernoulli’s Equation
    4. 12.3 The Most General Applications of Bernoulli’s Equation
    5. 12.4 Viscosity and Laminar Flow; Poiseuille’s Law
    6. 12.5 The Onset of Turbulence
    7. 12.6 Motion of an Object in a Viscous Fluid
    8. 12.7 Molecular Transport Phenomena: Diffusion, Osmosis, and Related Processes
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  14. 13 Temperature, Kinetic Theory, and the Gas Laws
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 13.1 Temperature
    3. 13.2 Thermal Expansion of Solids and Liquids
    4. 13.3 The Ideal Gas Law
    5. 13.4 Kinetic Theory: Atomic and Molecular Explanation of Pressure and Temperature
    6. 13.5 Phase Changes
    7. 13.6 Humidity, Evaporation, and Boiling
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  15. 14 Heat and Heat Transfer Methods
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 14.1 Heat
    3. 14.2 Temperature Change and Heat Capacity
    4. 14.3 Phase Change and Latent Heat
    5. 14.4 Heat Transfer Methods
    6. 14.5 Conduction
    7. 14.6 Convection
    8. 14.7 Radiation
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  16. 15 Thermodynamics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 15.1 The First Law of Thermodynamics
    3. 15.2 The First Law of Thermodynamics and Some Simple Processes
    4. 15.3 Introduction to the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Heat Engines and Their Efficiency
    5. 15.4 Carnot’s Perfect Heat Engine: The Second Law of Thermodynamics Restated
    6. 15.5 Applications of Thermodynamics: Heat Pumps and Refrigerators
    7. 15.6 Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Disorder and the Unavailability of Energy
    8. 15.7 Statistical Interpretation of Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: The Underlying Explanation
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  17. 16 Oscillatory Motion and Waves
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 16.1 Hooke’s Law: Stress and Strain Revisited
    3. 16.2 Period and Frequency in Oscillations
    4. 16.3 Simple Harmonic Motion: A Special Periodic Motion
    5. 16.4 The Simple Pendulum
    6. 16.5 Energy and the Simple Harmonic Oscillator
    7. 16.6 Uniform Circular Motion and Simple Harmonic Motion
    8. 16.7 Damped Harmonic Motion
    9. 16.8 Forced Oscillations and Resonance
    10. 16.9 Waves
    11. 16.10 Superposition and Interference
    12. 16.11 Energy in Waves: Intensity
    13. Glossary
    14. Section Summary
    15. Conceptual Questions
    16. Problems & Exercises
    17. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  18. 17 Physics of Hearing
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 17.1 Sound
    3. 17.2 Speed of Sound, Frequency, and Wavelength
    4. 17.3 Sound Intensity and Sound Level
    5. 17.4 Doppler Effect and Sonic Booms
    6. 17.5 Sound Interference and Resonance: Standing Waves in Air Columns
    7. 17.6 Hearing
    8. 17.7 Ultrasound
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  19. 18 Electric Charge and Electric Field
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 18.1 Static Electricity and Charge: Conservation of Charge
    3. 18.2 Conductors and Insulators
    4. 18.3 Conductors and Electric Fields in Static Equilibrium
    5. 18.4 Coulomb’s Law
    6. 18.5 Electric Field: Concept of a Field Revisited
    7. 18.6 Electric Field Lines: Multiple Charges
    8. 18.7 Electric Forces in Biology
    9. 18.8 Applications of Electrostatics
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
    14. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  20. 19 Electric Potential and Electric Field
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 19.1 Electric Potential Energy: Potential Difference
    3. 19.2 Electric Potential in a Uniform Electric Field
    4. 19.3 Electrical Potential Due to a Point Charge
    5. 19.4 Equipotential Lines
    6. 19.5 Capacitors and Dielectrics
    7. 19.6 Capacitors in Series and Parallel
    8. 19.7 Energy Stored in Capacitors
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  21. 20 Electric Current, Resistance, and Ohm's Law
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 20.1 Current
    3. 20.2 Ohm’s Law: Resistance and Simple Circuits
    4. 20.3 Resistance and Resistivity
    5. 20.4 Electric Power and Energy
    6. 20.5 Alternating Current versus Direct Current
    7. 20.6 Electric Hazards and the Human Body
    8. 20.7 Nerve Conduction–Electrocardiograms
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  22. 21 Circuits, Bioelectricity, and DC Instruments
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 21.1 Resistors in Series and Parallel
    3. 21.2 Electromotive Force: Terminal Voltage
    4. 21.3 Kirchhoff’s Rules
    5. 21.4 DC Voltmeters and Ammeters
    6. 21.5 Null Measurements
    7. 21.6 DC Circuits Containing Resistors and Capacitors
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  23. 22 Magnetism
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 22.1 Magnets
    3. 22.2 Ferromagnets and Electromagnets
    4. 22.3 Magnetic Fields and Magnetic Field Lines
    5. 22.4 Magnetic Field Strength: Force on a Moving Charge in a Magnetic Field
    6. 22.5 Force on a Moving Charge in a Magnetic Field: Examples and Applications
    7. 22.6 The Hall Effect
    8. 22.7 Magnetic Force on a Current-Carrying Conductor
    9. 22.8 Torque on a Current Loop: Motors and Meters
    10. 22.9 Magnetic Fields Produced by Currents: Ampere’s Law
    11. 22.10 Magnetic Force between Two Parallel Conductors
    12. 22.11 More Applications of Magnetism
    13. Glossary
    14. Section Summary
    15. Conceptual Questions
    16. Problems & Exercises
    17. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  24. 23 Electromagnetic Induction, AC Circuits, and Electrical Technologies
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 23.1 Induced Emf and Magnetic Flux
    3. 23.2 Faraday’s Law of Induction: Lenz’s Law
    4. 23.3 Motional Emf
    5. 23.4 Eddy Currents and Magnetic Damping
    6. 23.5 Electric Generators
    7. 23.6 Back Emf
    8. 23.7 Transformers
    9. 23.8 Electrical Safety: Systems and Devices
    10. 23.9 Inductance
    11. 23.10 RL Circuits
    12. 23.11 Reactance, Inductive and Capacitive
    13. 23.12 RLC Series AC Circuits
    14. Glossary
    15. Section Summary
    16. Conceptual Questions
    17. Problems & Exercises
    18. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  25. 24 Electromagnetic Waves
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 24.1 Maxwell’s Equations: Electromagnetic Waves Predicted and Observed
    3. 24.2 Production of Electromagnetic Waves
    4. 24.3 The Electromagnetic Spectrum
    5. 24.4 Energy in Electromagnetic Waves
    6. Glossary
    7. Section Summary
    8. Conceptual Questions
    9. Problems & Exercises
    10. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  26. 25 Geometric Optics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 25.1 The Ray Aspect of Light
    3. 25.2 The Law of Reflection
    4. 25.3 The Law of Refraction
    5. 25.4 Total Internal Reflection
    6. 25.5 Dispersion: The Rainbow and Prisms
    7. 25.6 Image Formation by Lenses
    8. 25.7 Image Formation by Mirrors
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  27. 26 Vision and Optical Instruments
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 26.1 Physics of the Eye
    3. 26.2 Vision Correction
    4. 26.3 Color and Color Vision
    5. 26.4 Microscopes
    6. 26.5 Telescopes
    7. 26.6 Aberrations
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  28. 27 Wave Optics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 27.1 The Wave Aspect of Light: Interference
    3. 27.2 Huygens's Principle: Diffraction
    4. 27.3 Young’s Double Slit Experiment
    5. 27.4 Multiple Slit Diffraction
    6. 27.5 Single Slit Diffraction
    7. 27.6 Limits of Resolution: The Rayleigh Criterion
    8. 27.7 Thin Film Interference
    9. 27.8 Polarization
    10. 27.9 *Extended Topic* Microscopy Enhanced by the Wave Characteristics of Light
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
    15. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  29. 28 Special Relativity
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 28.1 Einstein’s Postulates
    3. 28.2 Simultaneity And Time Dilation
    4. 28.3 Length Contraction
    5. 28.4 Relativistic Addition of Velocities
    6. 28.5 Relativistic Momentum
    7. 28.6 Relativistic Energy
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  30. 29 Introduction to Quantum Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 29.1 Quantization of Energy
    3. 29.2 The Photoelectric Effect
    4. 29.3 Photon Energies and the Electromagnetic Spectrum
    5. 29.4 Photon Momentum
    6. 29.5 The Particle-Wave Duality
    7. 29.6 The Wave Nature of Matter
    8. 29.7 Probability: The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
    9. 29.8 The Particle-Wave Duality Reviewed
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
    14. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  31. 30 Atomic Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 30.1 Discovery of the Atom
    3. 30.2 Discovery of the Parts of the Atom: Electrons and Nuclei
    4. 30.3 Bohr’s Theory of the Hydrogen Atom
    5. 30.4 X Rays: Atomic Origins and Applications
    6. 30.5 Applications of Atomic Excitations and De-Excitations
    7. 30.6 The Wave Nature of Matter Causes Quantization
    8. 30.7 Patterns in Spectra Reveal More Quantization
    9. 30.8 Quantum Numbers and Rules
    10. 30.9 The Pauli Exclusion Principle
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
    15. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  32. 31 Radioactivity and Nuclear Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 31.1 Nuclear Radioactivity
    3. 31.2 Radiation Detection and Detectors
    4. 31.3 Substructure of the Nucleus
    5. 31.4 Nuclear Decay and Conservation Laws
    6. 31.5 Half-Life and Activity
    7. 31.6 Binding Energy
    8. 31.7 Tunneling
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  33. 32 Medical Applications of Nuclear Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 32.1 Medical Imaging and Diagnostics
    3. 32.2 Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation
    4. 32.3 Therapeutic Uses of Ionizing Radiation
    5. 32.4 Food Irradiation
    6. 32.5 Fusion
    7. 32.6 Fission
    8. 32.7 Nuclear Weapons
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
    13. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  34. 33 Particle Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 33.1 The Yukawa Particle and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle Revisited
    3. 33.2 The Four Basic Forces
    4. 33.3 Accelerators Create Matter from Energy
    5. 33.4 Particles, Patterns, and Conservation Laws
    6. 33.5 Quarks: Is That All There Is?
    7. 33.6 GUTs: The Unification of Forces
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
    12. Test Prep for AP® Courses
  35. 34 Frontiers of Physics
    1. Connection for AP® Courses
    2. 34.1 Cosmology and Particle Physics
    3. 34.2 General Relativity and Quantum Gravity
    4. 34.3 Superstrings
    5. 34.4 Dark Matter and Closure
    6. 34.5 Complexity and Chaos
    7. 34.6 High-Temperature Superconductors
    8. 34.7 Some Questions We Know to Ask
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  36. A | Atomic Masses
  37. B | Selected Radioactive Isotopes
  38. C | Useful Information
  39. D | Glossary of Key Symbols and Notation
  40. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
    12. Chapter 12
    13. Chapter 13
    14. Chapter 14
    15. Chapter 15
    16. Chapter 16
    17. Chapter 17
    18. Chapter 18
    19. Chapter 19
    20. Chapter 20
    21. Chapter 21
    22. Chapter 22
    23. Chapter 23
    24. Chapter 24
    25. Chapter 25
    26. Chapter 26
    27. Chapter 27
    28. Chapter 28
    29. Chapter 29
    30. Chapter 30
    31. Chapter 31
    32. Chapter 32
    33. Chapter 33
    34. Chapter 34
  41. Index

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the law of conservation of linear momentum.
  • Derive an expression for the conservation of momentum.
  • Explain conservation of momentum with examples.
  • Explain the law of conservation of momentum as it relates to atomic and subatomic particles.

The information presented in this section supports the following AP® learning objectives and science practices:

  • 5.A.2.1 The student is able to define open and closed systems for everyday situations and apply conservation concepts for energy, charge, and linear momentum to those situations. (S.P. 6.4, 7.2)
  • 5.D.1.4 The student is able to design an experimental test of an application of the principle of the conservation of linear momentum, predict an outcome of the experiment using the principle, analyze data generated by that experiment whose uncertainties are expressed numerically, and evaluate the match between the prediction and the outcome. (S.P. 4.2, 5.1, 5.3, 6.4)
  • 5.D.2.1 The student is able to qualitatively predict, in terms of linear momentum and kinetic energy, how the outcome of a collision between two objects changes depending on whether the collision is elastic or inelastic. (S.P. 6.4, 7.2)
  • 5.D.2.2 The student is able to plan data collection strategies to test the law of conservation of momentum in a two-object collision that is elastic or inelastic and analyze the resulting data graphically. (S.P.4.1, 4.2, 5.1)
  • 5.D.3.1 The student is able to predict the velocity of the center of mass of a system when there is no interaction outside of the system but there is an interaction within the system (i.e., the student simply recognizes that interactions within a system do not affect the center of mass motion of the system and is able to determine that there is no external force). (S.P. 6.4)

Momentum is an important quantity because it is conserved. Yet it was not conserved in the examples in Impulse and Linear Momentum and Force, where large changes in momentum were produced by forces acting on the system of interest. Under what circumstances is momentum conserved?

The answer to this question entails considering a sufficiently large system. It is always possible to find a larger system in which total momentum is constant, even if momentum changes for components of the system. If a football player runs into the goalpost in the end zone, there will be a force on him that causes him to bounce backward. However, the Earth also recoils —conserving momentum—because of the force applied to it through the goalpost. Because Earth is many orders of magnitude more massive than the player, its recoil is immeasurably small and can be neglected in any practical sense, but it is real nevertheless.

Consider what happens if the masses of two colliding objects are more similar than the masses of a football player and Earth—for example, one car bumping into another, as shown in Figure 8.6. Both cars are coasting in the same direction when the lead car (labeled m2)m2) size 12{m rSub { size 8{2} } \) } {} is bumped by the trailing car (labeled m1).m1). size 12{m rSub { size 8{1} } \) "." } {} The only unbalanced force on each car is the force of the collision. (Assume that the effects due to friction are negligible.) Car 1 slows down as a result of the collision, losing some momentum, while car 2 speeds up and gains some momentum. We shall now show that the total momentum of the two-car system remains constant.

A brown car with velocity V 1 and mass m 1 moves toward the right behind a tan car of velocity V 2 and mass m 2. The system of interest has a total momentum equal to the sum of individual momentums p 1 and p 2. The net force between them is zero before they collide with one another. The brown car after colliding with the tan car has velocity V 1prime and momentum p 1 prime and the light brown car moves with velocity V 2 prime and momentum p 2 prime. Both move in the same direction as before collision. This system of interest has a total momentum equal to the sum p 1 prime and p 2 prime.
Figure 8.6 A car of mass m1m1 size 12{m rSub { size 8{1} } } {} moving with a velocity of v1v1 size 12{v rSub { size 8{1} } } {} bumps into another car of mass m2m2 size 12{m rSub { size 8{2} } } {} and velocity v2v2 size 12{v rSub { size 8{2} } } {} that it is following. As a result, the first car slows down to a velocity of v′1v′1 size 12{ { {v}} sup { ' } rSub { size 8{1} } } {} and the second speeds up to a velocity of v′2v′2 size 12{ { {v}} sup { ' } rSub { size 8{2} } } {}. The momentum of each car is changed, but the total momentum ptotptot size 12{p rSub { size 8{"tot"} } } {} of the two cars is the same before and after the collision (if you assume friction is negligible).

Using the definition of impulse, the change in momentum of car 1 is given by

Δ p 1 = F 1 Δ t , Δ p 1 = F 1 Δ t , size 12{Δp rSub { size 8{1} } =F rSub { size 8{1} } Δt} {}
8.32

where F1F1 size 12{F"" lSub { size 8{1} } } {} is the force on car 1 due to car 2, and ΔtΔt size 12{Δt} {} is the time the force acts (the duration of the collision). Intuitively, it seems obvious that the collision time is the same for both cars, but it is only true for objects traveling at ordinary speeds. This assumption must be modified for objects travelling near the speed of light, without affecting the result that momentum is conserved.

Similarly, the change in momentum of car 2 is

Δ p 2 = F 2 Δ t, Δ p 2 = F 2 Δ t, size 12{Δp rSub { size 8{1} } =F rSub { size 8{1} } Δt} {}
8.33

where F2F2 is the force on car 2 due to car 1, and we assume the duration of the collision ΔtΔt size 12{?t} {} is the same for both cars. We know from Newton’s third law that F2=F1F2=F1 size 12{F rSub { size 8{2} } = - F rSub { size 8{1} } } {}, and so

Δp2=F1Δt=Δp1.Δp2=F1Δt=Δp1. size 12{Δp rSub { size 8{2} } = - F rSub { size 8{1} } Δt= - Δp rSub { size 8{1} } } {}
8.34

Thus, the changes in momentum are equal and opposite, and

Δp1+Δp2=0.Δp1+Δp2=0. size 12{Δp rSub { size 8{1} } +Δp rSub { size 8{2} } =0} {}
8.35

Because the changes in momentum add to zero, the total momentum of the two-car system is constant. That is,

p1+p2= constant,p1+p2= constant, size 12{p rSub { size 8{1} } +p rSub { size 8{2} } =" constant"} {}
8.36
p1+p2=p1+p2,p1+p2=p1+p2, size 12{p rSub { size 8{1} } +p rSub { size 8{2} } = { {p}} sup { ' } rSub { size 8{1} } + { {p}} sup { ' } rSub { size 8{2} } } {}
8.37

where p1p1 size 12{ { {p}} sup { ' } rSub { size 8{1} } } {} and p2p2 size 12{ { {p}} sup { ' } rSub { size 8{2} } } {} are the momenta of cars 1 and 2 after the collision. (We often use primes to denote the final state.)

This result—that momentum is conserved—has validity far beyond the preceding one-dimensional case. It can be similarly shown that total momentum is conserved for any isolated system, with any number of objects in it. In equation form, the conservation of momentum principle for an isolated system is written

p tot = constant , p tot = constant , size 12{p rSub { size 8{"tot"} } ="constant"} {}
8.38

or

ptot=ptot,ptot=ptot, size 12{p rSub { size 8{"tot"} } =p' rSub { size 8{"tot"} } } {}
8.39

where ptotptot size 12{p rSub { size 8{"tot"} } } {} is the total momentum (the sum of the momenta of the individual objects in the system) and ptotptot size 12{ ital "p'" rSub { size 8{"tot"} } } {} is the total momentum some time later. (The total momentum can be shown to be the momentum of the center of mass of the system.) An isolated system is defined to be one for which the net external force is zero Fnet=0.Fnet=0. size 12{ left (F rSub { size 8{ ital "net"} } =0 right ) "." } {}

Conservation of Momentum Principle

p tot = constant p tot = p tot ( isolated system ) p tot = constant p tot = p tot ( isolated system )
8.40

Isolated System

An isolated system is defined to be one for which the net external force is zero Fnet=0.Fnet=0. size 12{ left (F rSub { size 8{ ital "net"} } =0 right ) "." } {}

Making Connections: Cart Collisions

Consider two air carts with equal mass (m) on a linear track. The first cart moves with a speed v towards the second cart, which is initially at rest. We will take the initial direction of motion of the first cart as the positive direction.

The momentum of the system will be conserved in the collision. If the collision is elastic, then the first cart will stop after the collision. Conservation of momentum therefore tells us that the second cart will have a final velocity v after the collision in the same direction as the initial velocity of the first cart.

The kinetic energy of the system will be conserved since the masses are equal and the final velocity of cart 2 is equal to the initial velocity of cart 1. What would a graph of total momentum vs. time look like in this case? What would a graph of total kinetic energy vs. time look like in this case?

Consider the center of mass of this system as the frame of reference. As cart 1 approaches cart 2, the center of mass remains exactly halfway between the two carts. The center of mass moves toward the stationary cart 2 at a speed v2v2. After the collision, the center of mass continues moving in the same direction, away from (now stationary) cart 1 at a speed v2v2. How would a graph of center-of-mass velocity vs. time compare to a graph of momentum vs. time?

Suppose instead that the two carts move with equal speeds v in opposite directions towards the center of mass. Again, they have an elastic collision, so after the collision, they exchange velocities (each cart moving in the opposite direction of its initial motion with the same speed). As the two carts approach, the center of mass is exactly between the two carts, at the point where they will collide. In this case, how would a graph of center-of-mass velocity vs. time compare to a graph of the momentum of the system vs. time?

Let us return to the example where the first cart is moving with a speed v toward the second cart, initially at rest. Suppose the second cart has some putty on one end so that, when the collision occurs, the two carts stick together in an inelastic collision. In this case, conservation of momentum tells us that the final velocity of the two-cart system will be half the initial velocity of the first cart, in the same direction as the first cart’s initial motion. Kinetic energy will not be conserved in this case, however. Compared to the moving cart before the collision, the overall moving mass after the collision is doubled, but the velocity is halved.

The initial kinetic energy of the system is:

k i = 1 2 m v 2 (1st cart)+0(2nd cart)= 1 2 m v 2 k i = 1 2 m v 2 (1st cart)+0(2nd cart)= 1 2 m v 2
8.41

The final kinetic energy of the two carts (2m) moving together (at speed v/2) is:

k f = 1 2 (2m) ( v 2 ) 2 = 1 4 m v 2 k f = 1 2 (2m) ( v 2 ) 2 = 1 4 m v 2
8.42

What would a graph of total momentum vs. time look like in this case? What would a graph of total kinetic energy vs. time look like in this case?

Consider the center of mass of this system. As cart 1 approaches cart 2, the center of mass remains exactly halfway between the two carts. The center of mass moves toward the stationary cart 2 at a speed v2v2. After the collision, the two carts move together at a speed v2v2. How would a graph of center-of-mass velocity vs. time compare to a graph of momentum vs. time?

Suppose instead that the two carts move with equal speeds v in opposite directions towards the center of mass. They have putty on the end of each cart so that they stick together after the collision. As the two carts approach, the center of mass is exactly between the two carts, at the point where they will collide. In this case, how would a graph of center-of-mass velocity vs. time compare to a graph of the momentum of the system vs. time?

Perhaps an easier way to see that momentum is conserved for an isolated system is to consider Newton’s second law in terms of momentum, Fnet=ΔptotΔt Fnet=ΔptotΔt . For an isolated system, Fnet=0Fnet=0; thus, Δptot=0Δptot=0 size 12{?p rSub { size 8{"tot"} } =0} {}, and ptotptot is constant.

We have noted that the three length dimensions in nature—xx size 12{x} {}, yy size 12{y} {}, and zz size 12{z} {}—are independent, and it is interesting to note that momentum can be conserved in different ways along each dimension. For example, during projectile motion and where air resistance is negligible, momentum is conserved in the horizontal direction because horizontal forces are zero and momentum is unchanged. But along the vertical direction, the net vertical force is not zero and the momentum of the projectile is not conserved. (See Figure 8.7.) However, if the momentum of the projectile-Earth system is considered in the vertical direction, we find that the total momentum is conserved.

A space probe is projected upward. It takes a parabolic path. No horizontal net force acts on. The horizontal component of momentum remains conserved. The vertical net force is not zero and the vertical component of momentum is not a constant. When the space probe separates, the horizontal net force remains zero as the force causing separation is internal to the system. The vertical net force is not zero and the vertical component of momentum is also not a constant after separation. The centre of mass however continues in the same parabolic path.
Figure 8.7 The horizontal component of a projectile’s momentum is conserved if air resistance is negligible, even in this case where a space probe separates. The forces causing the separation are internal to the system, so that the net external horizontal force FxnetFxnet is still zero. The vertical component of the momentum is not conserved, because the net vertical force FynetFynet is not zero. In the vertical direction, the space probe-Earth system needs to be considered and we find that the total momentum is conserved. The center of mass of the space probe takes the same path it would if the separation did not occur.

The conservation of momentum principle can be applied to systems as different as a comet striking Earth and a gas containing huge numbers of atoms and molecules. Conservation of momentum is violated only when the net external force is not zero. But another larger system can always be considered in which momentum is conserved by simply including the source of the external force. For example, in the collision of two cars considered above, the two-car system conserves momentum while each one-car system does not.

Making Connections: Take-Home Investigation—Drop of Tennis Ball and a Basketball

Hold a tennis ball side by side and in contact with a basketball. Drop the balls together. (Be careful!) What happens? Explain your observations. Now hold the tennis ball above and in contact with the basketball. What happened? Explain your observations. What do you think will happen if the basketball ball is held above and in contact with the tennis ball?

Making Connections: Take-Home Investigation—Two Tennis Balls in a Ballistic Trajectory

Tie two tennis balls together with a string about a foot long. Hold one ball and let the other hang down and throw it in a ballistic trajectory. Explain your observations. Now mark the center of the string with bright ink or attach a brightly colored sticker to it and throw again. What happened? Explain your observations.

Some aquatic animals such as jellyfish move around based on the principles of conservation of momentum. A jellyfish fills its umbrella section with water and then pushes the water out resulting in motion in the opposite direction to that of the jet of water. Squids propel themselves in a similar manner but, in contrast with jellyfish, are able to control the direction in which they move by aiming their nozzle forward or backward. Typical squids can move at speeds of 8 to 12 km/h.

The ballistocardiograph (BCG) was a diagnostic tool used in the second half of the 20th century to study the strength of the heart. About once a second, your heart beats, forcing blood into the aorta. A force in the opposite direction is exerted on the rest of your body (recall Newton’s third law). A ballistocardiograph is a device that can measure this reaction force. This measurement is done by using a sensor (resting on the person) or by using a moving table suspended from the ceiling. This technique can gather information on the strength of the heart beat and the volume of blood passing from the heart. However, the electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and the echocardiogram (cardiac ECHO or ECHO; a technique that uses ultrasound to see an image of the heart) are more widely used in the practice of cardiology.

Applying Science Practices: Verifying the Conservation of Linear Momentum

Design an experiment to verify the conservation of linear momentum in a one-dimensional collision, both elastic and inelastic. For simplicity, try to ensure that friction is minimized so that it has a negligible effect on your experiment. As you consider your experiment, consider the following questions:

  • Predict how the final momentum of the system will compare to the initial momentum of the system that you will measure. Justify your prediction.
  • How will you measure the momentum of each object?
  • Should you have two objects in motion or one object bouncing off a rigid surface?
  • Should you verify the relationship mathematically or graphically?
  • How will you estimate the uncertainty of your measurements? How will you express this uncertainty in your data?

When you have completed each experiment, compare the outcome to your prediction about the initial and final momentum of the system and evaluate your results.

Making Connections: Conservation of Momentum and Collision

Conservation of momentum is quite useful in describing collisions. Momentum is crucial to our understanding of atomic and subatomic particles because much of what we know about these particles comes from collision experiments.

Subatomic Collisions and Momentum

The conservation of momentum principle not only applies to the macroscopic objects, it is also essential to our explorations of atomic and subatomic particles. Giant machines hurl subatomic particles at one another, and researchers evaluate the results by assuming conservation of momentum (among other things).

On the small scale, we find that particles and their properties are invisible to the naked eye but can be measured with our instruments, and models of these subatomic particles can be constructed to describe the results. Momentum is found to be a property of all subatomic particles including massless particles such as photons that compose light. Momentum being a property of particles hints that momentum may have an identity beyond the description of an object’s mass multiplied by the object’s velocity. Indeed, momentum relates to wave properties and plays a fundamental role in what measurements are taken and how we take these measurements. Furthermore, we find that the conservation of momentum principle is valid when considering systems of particles. We use this principle to analyze the masses and other properties of previously undetected particles, such as the nucleus of an atom and the existence of quarks that make up particles of nuclei. Figure 8.8 below illustrates how a particle scattering backward from another implies that its target is massive and dense. Experiments seeking evidence that quarks make up protons (one type of particle that makes up nuclei) scattered high-energy electrons off of protons (nuclei of hydrogen atoms). Electrons occasionally scattered straight backward in a manner that implied a very small and very dense particle makes up the proton—this observation is considered nearly direct evidence of quarks. The analysis was based partly on the same conservation of momentum principle that works so well on the large scale.

An electron strikes on a macroscopic target and recoils back. A closer look shows the electron to scatter backward after interacting with the proton.
Figure 8.8 A subatomic particle scatters straight backward from a target particle. In experiments seeking evidence for quarks, electrons were observed to occasionally scatter straight backward from a proton.
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