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Q & A: Rebound height of a bouncing ball

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Most recent answer: 03/20/2016
Q:
Is it possible to determine the rebound/return height bounce for the first bounce of a ball based upon it's gravitational potential energy. In other words, can I find the height of a rebound bounce from the Mass, Gravitational Force and Height it was dropped from?
- Alia Winchester (age 15)
Forest Glen, QLD, Australia
A:

No    You need addtional information related to how much energy was dissipated during the contact with the floor.  You can see this by considering a thought experiment:  imagine dropping balls of different materials, but all from the same original height.

If we assume a perfectly elastic interaction, then the ball bounces back up to the original height.  Some rubber balls get close to this.    A "perfectly plastic" interaction dissipates the maximum possible energy and the rebound height is zero; think of dropping a lump of wet clay.

The effect is sometimes quanitifed by the notion of "coefficient of restitution"


(published on 03/20/2016)

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