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Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collision?

  1. May 8, 2009 #1
    Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collision??

    I've though about this for a while... If KE from object X is lost during the collision it means that the object will slow down. If it does, how is momentum in the system conserved? Could you explain this by means of an example? Imagine that Object X is moving and Object Y is stationary.
    Thanks in advance.
     
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  3. May 8, 2009 #2

    diazona

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    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    Okay: say X has a mass of 1 kg and Y has a mass of 3 kg. X is moving toward the right at 15 m/s and Y is stationary. The total momentum of X and Y before the collision is 15 kg.m/s, and the total energy is 225 J.

    After the collision, say X is stationary and Y is moving to the right. If momentum is conserved, then Y's speed is 5 m/s - but in that case, its kinetic energy is 75 kg.m/s. So kinetic energy obviously is not conserved in this case, but momentum is. Basically, when the momentum is transferred from object X to object Y, more of it "goes into" the mass and less of it "goes into" the velocity. But because kinetic energy is more strongly dependent on velocity, the "transfer" of momentum from mass to velocity (I'm using such loose terminology here I'm almost ashamed of myself) "affects" the kinetic energy more than the momentum - end result, kinetic energy goes down while momentum doesn't.

    Speaking more generally (and more correctly now), a formula that is very common in higher-level physics is
    [tex]E = \frac{p^2}{2m}[/tex]
    (check it if you like, using [tex]E = mv^2/2[/tex] and [tex]p = mv[/tex]). This means that two objects can have the same momentum but different energies, if they have different masses. The lost kinetic energy generally turns into heat and sound waves.
     
  4. May 9, 2009 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    And object Y will speed up.

    If Object Y starts out as stationary, it won't end up as stationary.
     
  5. May 9, 2009 #4
    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    Apologies for an unrelated question for someone: Why is the second Latex eq. positioned vertically up too high and what governs vertical position? Are there ways or tricks for controlling vert. alignment?

    Thanx.
     
  6. May 9, 2009 #5

    jtbell

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    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    When you put an equation inside a line of text, use "itex" and "/itex" tags, not "tex" and "/tex".
     
  7. May 9, 2009 #6
    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    Total energy and total momentum is always conserved. Now, momentum is linear in the velocity and this then implies that the velocity of the center of mass times the total mass of an object is also the total momentum of the object. So, if we keep track of only the center of mass and velocities of the objects involved, we will have accounted for all of the momentum in the system.


    Kinetic energy is different. If you have N particles then the total energy can be written as the kinetic energy of the center of mass plus the sum of 1/2 m_i v_i^2 where v_i is the velocity of the ith particle relative to the center of mass and m_i the mass of the ith particle.


    So, unlike momentum, kinetic energy can get lost in the motion of the parts of the system. We then say that energy has been dissipated in the form of heat.
     
  8. May 9, 2009 #7
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  9. May 9, 2009 #8

    rcgldr

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    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    Is there a way to "prove" momentum is conserved through some type of math at the molecular level, or is it just an observed experience?
     
  10. May 9, 2009 #9
    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    It follows from the fact that the laws of physics are invariant under translations. Of course, this invariance is itself something that is based on observations.
     
  11. May 9, 2009 #10

    jambaugh

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    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    Here is a simpler example which may help you see the distinction.
    Imagine two balls of putty of equal mass heading toward one another head on at the same speed (and thus opposite velocity).

    They hit, they stick, they warm up due to conversion of kinetic energy to heat.

    The total momentum was zero to begin with since momentum is a vector and the two ball's momentum was equal and opposite in direction they add to zero.

    Before the collision the total momentum was (mV) + (-mV). Afterwards it is 0+0.
     
  12. May 10, 2009 #11
    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    Thanks for all the replies... I think I understand momentum and KE now.
     
  13. May 11, 2009 #12
    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    Momentum is a vector. Energy is a scalar. Makes a huge lot of difference. Two bodies moving at a frenetic pace in opposite directions would give a total momentum zero. Unfortunate!
     
  14. May 11, 2009 #13
    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    I don't understand how invariance can lead to conservation while conservation is in itself a law. A.P French in his "Newtonian Mechanics" says conservation of momentum was found first by observations. He goes on to say that the third law was derived from this and the second law.
     
  15. May 11, 2009 #14
    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio


    This is how people centuries ago who did not have the deep understanding of the laws of physics as we have today, found out that momentum is conserved.

    The modern view, based on "[URL [Broken] theorem[/URL] is more fundamental, because it relates conservation of momentum to something that is far more fundamental, i.e. that the laws of physics operate in all places in the universe in exactly the same way. In experiments one can set limits to any violatons of this invariance under translations that then imply limits to violations to momentum conseervations. These limits are then much sharper than what you could get out of any direct measurement of momenta.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  16. May 11, 2009 #15

    jambaugh

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    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    One last thought on the matter. Remember that Force changes momentum, in particular force is the time rate of change of momentum. Total momentum conservation is then built into Newton's third law: To every action (force) there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    Newton's third law is simply the statement that momentum is not created nor destroyed it is just exchanged between systems which interact with one another. Total momentum is conserved unless Newton's third law is violated.
     
  17. May 11, 2009 #16
    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    But that Noether theorem page of wikipedia says
    How is that? :uhh:
     
  18. May 11, 2009 #17
    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    Newton's third law implies conservation of momentum but conservation of momentum does not imply Newton's third law.
     
  19. May 11, 2009 #18
    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    Let's have a two particle system. m1, u1, m2,u2, v1,v2 are all corresponding parameters. What all these mean needn't be explained. :D
    A force F12 is exerted by 1 on 2; and F21 exerted by 2 on 1. Both forces act for a small interval of time t. Conservation of momentum and Second law are 'known' are taken as the basis.
    Initial momentum:
    m1u1+ m2u2
    Final momentum:
    m1u1+ m2u2 + (F12+F21)t

    But by conservation of momentum,
    m1u1+m2u2 = m1u1+m2u2+ (F12+F21)t

    So (F12+F21)t = 0
    implying F12= - F21
    Equal and opposite. :)
    Whats wrong with this procedure?
    I read this in A.P.French's book i mentioned in my earlier post. But what i don't understand about this procedure is how they defined "mass" and subsequently momentum in the 'pre-newton's-laws period'.
     
  20. May 13, 2009 #19
    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    Kinetic energy IS conserved in an inelastic collision if you take into account the resulting increase in molecular kinetic energy after the collision and the radiation emitted by the molecules after the collision (aka, heat). The reason the momentum is conserved is that momentum is a vector quantity, and if Newton's second law holds (and it does) then Ft = mv. The "t" is always the same in all three dimensions for any collision. Energy, however, is a scalar, so you don't get this cancellation.
     
  21. May 14, 2009 #20

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: Can you explain how momentum is conserved while KE isn't in an inelastic collisio

    Total energy is conserved. Kinetic energy is not.
     
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