Main Question or Discussion Point
Collisions are very much a stock item in any school physics curriculum and students are generally taught about the use of the principles of conservation of momentum and energy for solving simple collision problems in one dimension. In this article we will be examining a very common type of collision problem: the inelastic or “collide and coalesce” collision. (See Note 1 below: a review comment on the definition of an inelastic collision) However we will be following a somewhat unconventional approach which – notwithstanding – is very much in step with a key underlying physical law namely Newton’s third law upon which conservation of momentum rests. We develop some easy to use formulae for the solution of inelastic collisions and show that these may be easily modified to solve both perfectly elastic and ‘semi-elastic’ collision problems.
Conservation of Momentum re-arranged
The basic equation for conservation of momentum in a straightforward...