Investigation 11B: Inelastic collisions

Essential questionsHow can we predict the outcome of an inelastic collision?
In this investigation you will explore how the total kinetic energy and momentum of a closed system involving two carts is affected by a perfectly inelastic collision between the carts.
Perfectly inelastic collisions

  1. Set a red cart and a blue cart on a level track with the Velcro® ends facing each other, as shown. Adjust the track feet to make sure the track is as level as possible.
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  1. Open the experiment file 11B_InelasticCollisions, and then power-on the Smart Carts and connect them to your computer using Bluetooth.
  2. Begin collecting data with both carts stationary, and then push the red cart into the blue cart. Stop recording data after the carts have collided.
  3. Use your software to find the velocity of each cart before the collision, and the final velocity of the two carts after the collision.
  4. Run the experiment for different combinations of masses for the two carts (0.25 kg = mass of empty cart). Use your data table to record the velocities for each combination.
  5. Calculate the total system momentum and kinetic energy before and after each collision. Record the values in your table and examine the table for patterns.
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  1. Describe the velocities before and after the collision when masses are equal.
  2. Describe the velocities (before and after) when the blue cart has more mass.
  3. Describe the velocities (before and after) when the red cart has more mass.
  4. As a result of the collision, does the total momentum of the system increase, decrease, or remain the same? Does the total kinetic energy of the system increase, decrease, or remain the same?

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