Momentum and collisions

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Table of Content

The purpose of this report is to investigate the theoretical speed of a ball bearing gun. It will discuss the approaches and strategies used to obtain the findings, along with the potential systematic and random errors that may occur due to limitations in experimentation.

  • Since the track is virtually frictionless and air resistance is neglected, the system is isolated; the net resultant force of the external forces equals zero.
  • The total linear momentum of the system before the collision is equal to the total momentum after the collision. Therefore, the total change in momentum of this two-particle system is zero.

Equation representing the concept of momentum conservation:

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  • The total linear momentum of an isolated system is constant.
  • All significant experimental errors have been incorporated into the final velocity result.

The determination of the muzzle velocity of a ball bearing gun will involve utilizing the law of conservation of momentum. Multiple mathematical methods and techniques will be employed in order to calculate the theoretical velocity.

The two particles in this system are effectively isolated, resulting in a net change in momentum of zero. Consequently, during the collision, both bodies will exert equal and opposite forces on each other. This ultimately results in the formation of a single body with a momentum equivalent to the combined momenta of the two particles prior to the collision.

  • One (1) Ball bearing. (Weight – 65.9g 0.1, Approx Size – 2cm in diameter) This will be the projectile that is fired from the missile launcher.
  • One (1) Cart. (Weight – 678.3g 0.1) This will be the object on which the projectile is fired onto.
  • One (1) standard Stopwatch. (Can measure up to 100th of a second) Used to time the journey of Cart + ball bearing.
  • One (1) Track. (Measuring device length – 0.50m 0.05) Used to guide cart and measure displacement.
  1. Prepare track by aligning it and the cart to a perfect 180 degrees to the launcher.
  2. Fire the ball bearing into the cart and time the journey. The ball bearing used in this experiment, took an average of 1.14 0.1 seconds to complete 0.50 meters.
  3. Work out the theoretical velocity of the ball bearing in the barrel of the launcher. Equations used to determine theoretical final velocity:

During the entirety of the experiment, it is crucial to wear safety glasses. Any onlooker who is not wearing safety glasses must observe from a safe distance.

This experiment confirmed my hypothesis. The total change in momentum throughout the whole experiment was zero. When the two particles collided, their momentum was conserved and a single body with the combined mass and momentum of the original bodies resulted. This outcome was achieved by applying the conservation of momentum law, which states that when there are no net external forces, momentum remains constant. Through this exercise, I acquired knowledge on computing errors and uncertainty using novel methods and techniques.

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Momentum and collisions. (2018, Jun 15). Retrieved from

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