Homework Help: Energy conservation (2 carts and a spring)

1. Aug 1, 2007

1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
A massless spring of spring constant 20 N/m is placed between two carts. Cart 1 has a mass M1 = 5 kg and Cart 2 has a mass M2 = 2 kg. The carts are pushed toward one another until the spring is compressed a distance 1.5 m. The carts are then released and the spring pushes them apart. After the carts are free of the spring, what are their speeds?

2. Relevant equations
I am using K_f + U_f = K-i + U_i
Why doesnt it work?

3. The attempt at a solution
OK heres what I know

U_i = 1/2k delta s^2
= 22.5J

K_i = 0 (because object initially not moving)

U_f = 0 (because carts now moving)

K_f = 1/2 mv^2
Energy is conserved, so 1/2mv^2 must = 22.5J.
Also, 22.5J is the kinetic energy of BOTH carts

So 22.5J = K (of cart 1) + K (of cart 2)

so that leaves me with 2 unknowns in each equation for each cart???

1/2mv^2 (cart 1) = (some amount of 22.5J)

1/2mv^2 (cart 2) = (some amount of 22.5J)

(Thanks)
(ALSO, I do understand that potential E is converting to kinetic E and the amount is conseved
and also that momentum is conserved)
1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

2. Relevant equations

3. The attempt at a solution

Last edited: Aug 1, 2007
2. Aug 1, 2007

chanvincent

Conservaiton of energy always works... so does Conservation of momentum...
Since you already have one equation with two unknown, i.e.
$$22.5 = 1/2m_1v_1^2 + 1/2m_2v_2^2$$
why don't you apply the conservation of momentum to add one more equation to the problem and make it become 2eqn 2 unkn...

3. Aug 1, 2007

OK but how could it have initial momentum if its not moving initially ?/
p=mv (v=0)
cause that would mean momentum not conserved right?

Last edited: Aug 1, 2007
4. Aug 1, 2007

chanvincent

Okay... that's mean the initial momentum p = 0...
And the final momentum depends on two object moving toward opposite direction, that's mean
$$m_1v_1 = m_2v_2$$

understand?>

5. Aug 1, 2007

OH, so in opposite directions so they must add to zero?

6. Aug 1, 2007

chanvincent

They are in opposite direction, so one must be positive while the other one must be negative, let's say v1 is moving to the positive direction, that's mean v2 must be negative... i.e.

$$m_1v_1 + m_2(-v_2) = 0$$
$$m_1v_1 = m_2v_2$$

7. Aug 1, 2007

SO if I have
22.5 = 1/2m1v1^2 + 1/2m2v2^2
and
m1v1 = m2v2

and set them equal to each other:

m1v1^2 + m2v2^2 - 45 = m1v1 - m2v2

I am still left with v1 + v2 = (some number) after all the algebra (unless my algebras bad)
??

8. Aug 1, 2007