Elastic Collisions of Two Spheres

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In an elastic collision, both momentum and kinetic energy are conserved. This Demonstration models collisions between two hard spheres of equal density. You can vary the relative mass and the impact parameter , the distance of closest approach of the centers if the spheres are undeflected. For a head-on collision, . You can observe the collision in slow motion in either the laboratory or the center-of-mass frame of reference. The spheres leave dotted contrails to help you trace their trajectories.

Contributed by: S. M. Blinder (March 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



Snapshot 1: The simplest case is a head-on collision between identical spheres: they simply exchange velocities.

Snapshot 2: The trajectories of two identical spheres in any angular collision are exactly perpendicular.

Snapshot 3: A lighter sphere gets the worst of a collision.

Snapshot 4: Here is the same collision viewed in center-of mass frame.

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