Throw Snowball from Car for Maximum Force: Physics Explained

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In summary, you can throw a snowball out of a moving car with the same force as if you had thrown it from a stationary position.
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Orion7
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Hi there.

Hopefully I'm posting this in the correct place. I took a look at the guidelines and decided not to post in the general physics forum as this question does seem homework-like, though it's not exactly homework. Just a general physics question if that's alright. If this is the incorrect place to post this question then please tell me so I'll know not to do so in the future.

My physics teacher mentioned that if you wanted to throw a snowball at someone in order to hit them with as much force as possible (he said this jokingly and told us not to actually try it out) that you could get inside of a car and throw a snowball out towards your target (such as a person or whatever it may be) as the speed at which the snowball traveled would be equal to the speed at which the car was also traveling.

For example: I'm inside of a car traveling 50 km/h, and I decide to throw a snowball out of that car towards a tree. The snowball would also be traveling at 50 km/h, and thus it would hit the tree with force proportional to the speed it was traveling at.

Now our physics teacher didn't explain why this would happen, and I searched on Google for possible answers, but to no avail.

Could anyone explain the physics behind this? I find the idea interesting and it's been on my mind for the past few days.

Thanks.
 
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  • #2
Huh. Looks like it was moved to general physics anyways.
 
  • #3
Both you and the snowball accelerated with the car relative to the tree. So when you toss the snowball out the window, it is still going at 50 km/h.
 
  • #4
For the same reason that if you jump out of a moving car you get hurt. If it weren't like that. You could jump out of cars and nothing would happen to you.
 
  • #5
Orion7 said:
For example: I'm inside of a car traveling 50 km/h, and I decide to throw a snowball out of that car towards a tree. The snowball would also be traveling at 50 km/h, and thus it would hit the tree with force proportional to the speed it was traveling at.

Now our physics teacher didn't explain why this would happen, and I searched on Google for possible answers, but to no avail.

Could anyone explain the physics behind this? I find the idea interesting and it's been on my mind for the past few days.

Thanks.
If you want the physics explanation, it's Newton's First Law of Motion:

"An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton's_laws_of_motion
 
  • #6
The speed with which the snowball hits the tree depends on the force and angle towards the tree with which you throw it. For example, your very poorly stated problem does not prohibit a solution where the throw the snowball out of the car at 51mph back towards the tree after you have passed it and it hits the tree at 1mph. OR, you could throw the snowball out of the car at 10mph directly towards an oncoming tree and hit the tree at 60 mph.

A proper statement (that I think your prof was making) is that you toss the snowball out of the car with zero forward velocity relative to the car but outwards towards the tree.

It's common to use that kind of poorly stated problem to demonstrate the basics but the fact that it is common does not make it a good idea.
 
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Related to Throw Snowball from Car for Maximum Force: Physics Explained

1. How does throwing a snowball from a car affect its maximum force?

When you throw a snowball from a car, the snowball will initially have the same velocity as the car. However, as it travels through the air, it will experience air resistance which will slow it down. This decrease in velocity will result in a decrease in the snowball's maximum force.

2. What is the relationship between velocity and maximum force when throwing a snowball from a car?

The maximum force of a snowball thrown from a car is directly proportional to its initial velocity. This means that the faster the car is moving, the greater the maximum force of the snowball will be.

3. How does the shape and weight of the snowball impact its maximum force?

The shape and weight of the snowball will affect its maximum force in two ways. Firstly, a heavier snowball will have more inertia, meaning it will be harder to accelerate and therefore have a lower maximum force. Secondly, the shape of the snowball can impact its aerodynamics and the amount of air resistance it experiences, which can also affect its maximum force.

4. Does the direction in which the snowball is thrown from the car affect its maximum force?

Yes, the direction in which the snowball is thrown will affect its maximum force. If the snowball is thrown in the same direction as the car's movement, it will have a higher maximum force due to the added velocity. However, if the snowball is thrown in the opposite direction, the car's velocity will decrease the snowball's maximum force.

5. What other factors can impact the maximum force of a snowball thrown from a car?

Other factors that can impact the maximum force of a snowball thrown from a car include the surface the snowball is thrown on, the angle at which it is thrown, and external forces such as wind. These factors can all affect the snowball's trajectory and the amount of air resistance it experiences, ultimately impacting its maximum force.

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