Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Momentum and Impulse in Basketball: By Rachel Valdivieso

Elastic Collisions, and Impulse

Sports often contain many real-life physics applications.  This video

shows two basketball players in a collision.

Assuming that player 20’s mass was 90kg and player 13’s mass was 120kg.

Player 20 was traveling in the +x direction at 1.5m/s and collided with player 13

traveling 2.0m/s in the –x direction (-2.0m/s). Assuming the collision was perfectly

elastic, each player’s velocity (with direction) and impulse (with direction after the

collision) can be calculated using the law of conservation of momentum and the

impulse equation. (These calculations refer to the velocity and impulse of each

player before player 20 fell.)The collision is assumed to be elastic.

The law of conservation of momentum equation:

Since momentum is conserved in elastic collisions:

[Equation 1] MAVA+MBVB=MAVA+MBVB  [Equation 2] VA-VB= -VA+VB

The axis of orientation is established and remains constant throughout the problem:

positive velocities move in the (+x direction) to the right and negative velocities

move in the (-x direction) to the left.

MA =90kg
MB =120kg
VB= -2.0m/s


Plugging in the known initial velocities and masses to the momentum equation:


using equation 2 to solve for VB in terms of VA:



solve  for VA:

VA= (-2.5m/s) (-x direction)

With 1 significant figure:

VA -3m/s (-x direction)

Plugging -2.5m/s into equation 2 to solve for VB:

VB=(3.5m/s)+(-2.5m/s)=1 m /s (+x direction)

With 1 significant figure:

VB1m/s (+x direction)

Now that the velocities are known, each player’s impulse can be calculated:

Impulse on player #20:

Impulse=MAVA-MAVA=the change in momentum for player 20

Plug in known values to solve for impulse:

Impulse=(90kg)(-2.5m/s)-(90kg)(1.5m/s)= -360kgŸm/s

With one significant figure and direction, since impulse is a vector:

Impulse -400kgŸm/s (-x direction)

Impulse on player #13:

Impulse=MBVB-MBVB=the change in momentum

Plug in known values to solve for impulse:


With one significant figure and direction, since impulse is a vector:

Impulse≈ 400kgŸm/s (+x direction)

       Assuming the collision is perfectly elastic, momentum is conserved and the

players feel equal magnitudes of impulse in the opposite direction.

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