You may have played with a Newton’s cradle in the past. In a Newton’s cradle, typically five balls are suspended at rest, side-by-side, from parallel supports. When you lift and release a ball at one end, it strikes the other balls and the last one in line is propelled up; this effect is then repeated in the opposite direction, creating a continuous pattern. In this activity, you will explore several collisions between carts and determine what quantity (or quantities) are conserved.


In this experiment, you will

  • Use video analysis techniques to obtain velocity and time data for two carts before and after a collision.
  • Evaluate the effect a collision has on the total system velocity, total system momentum, and total system kinetic energy to determine if any are conserved.