1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Homework Help: Collision problem involving a mass moving at speed toward another stationary mass attached to spring

  1. Oct 21, 2014 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    Block 2 with mass 2kg is at rest on a surface an touching the end of relaxed spring with spring constant k=151 N/m . The other end of the spring is attached to a wall. Block 1 with a mass of 1.8kg and travelling with a speed of v=4.5m/s, collides with block 2, and the two blocks stick together.

    When the blocks stop momentarily, what is the distance the spring is compressed?

    See diagram --> http://s17.postimg.org/ry9qgk0sf/diagram22.jpg

    EDIT: Sorry, forgot to mention the floors are frictionless!

    2. Relevant equations
    Conservation of linear momentum and conservation of mechanical energy

    3. The attempt at a solution
    First I set the problem up using conservation of mechanical energy

    KE_1 = U_s + KE_2 \\
    \frac{1}{2} m_1 v_i^2 = \frac{1}{2} k x^2 + \frac{1}{2} (m_1 + m_2) v_f^2

    Then to find what the velocity on the right hand side of the equation I used the conservation of linear momentum

    m_1 v_i = (m_1 + m_2) v_f \\
    v_f = \frac{m_1 v_i }{(m_1 + m_2)} \\
    v_f = \frac{(1.8)(4.5)}{1.8+2} = 2.13 m/s

    Then used that in the first equation, of conservation of mechanical energy
    \frac{1}{2} m_1 v_i^2 = \frac{1}{2} k x^2 + \frac{1}{2} (m_1 + m_2) v_f^2 \\
    \frac{1}{2} m_1 v_i^2 - \frac{1}{2} (m_1 + m_2) v_f^2 = \frac{1}{2} k x^2 \\
    x=\sqrt{\frac{\frac{1}{2} m_1 v_i^2 - \frac{1}{2} (m_1 + m_2) v_f^2}{0.5k}} \\
    x=\sqrt{\frac{\frac{1}{2} (1.8) (4.5)^2 - \frac{1}{2} (1.8+2) (2.13)^2}{(0.5)(151}} = 0.36m \\

    I am very unsure of my solution as I missed the two lectures covering the material this coursework is based on, so would appreciate any advice/feedback.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2014 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Two blocks sticking together after collision means you have a totally inelastic collision. Note that kinetic energy is NOT conserved in inelastic collisions! So you need to "forget" anything you knew about the initial KE previous to the collision.

    What you have, post collision, is the new KE that the combined blocks are carrying thanks to conservation of momentum allowing you to determine their post-collision speed. That's what you want to take into a conservation of energy scenario as the spring is compressed.
  4. Oct 21, 2014 #3
    Ah right, ok, thanks for your help.

    So going off that I calculated the velocity of the combined blocks correctly using the conservation of momentum does that mean then I can just do...
    \frac{1}{2}(m_1+m_2)v_f^2=\frac{1}{2}kx^2 \\
    (m_1+m_2)v_f^2=kx^2 \\
    x = \sqrt{\frac{(m_1+m_2)v_f^2}{k}}=\sqrt{\frac{(1.8+2)(2.13)^2}{151}}=0.34m


    Thanks :)
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2014
  5. Oct 21, 2014 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Yup. Looks good.
  6. Oct 22, 2014 #5
    Thank you :)
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted