Physics Van 3-site Navigational Menu

Physics Van Navigational Menu

Q & A: Bouncing Balls on Carpet

Learn more physics!

Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
Why do balls bounce lower on soft surfaces than they do on hard surfaces? Please tell me the scientific reason for this oh clever one. :)
- Emma (age 16)
england
A:
First, take a look at the other answers we've got about why balls bounce. Especially look at 'Why do Basketballs Bounce?' under Pushing And Pulling: Forces, Bouncing.

Then, think about it this way. When the ball is falling, it has a certain amount of energy. When it hits the ground on something soft, like carpet, some of that energy is absorbed by the ground. This is because the ground is springy, so it actually squishes a bit when the ball hits it. Or if the carpet is really shaggy, some of the energy goes to making the little bits of yarn move. Since some of the ball's energy went into the carpet, the ball doesn't have as much energy afterwards, and it can't bounce as high.

But if you bounce it on something solid, like a hardwood floor, the floor doesn't really have any give to it, so it doesn't absorb very much of the energy. This means that the ball will have more energy after it bounces and can bounce higher.

Hope this explanation helps!

-Tamara

(published on 10/22/2007)

Follow-up on this answer.