Virtual Air Track

So far, we have only studied some limited cases of totally elastic or totally inelastic collisions. Actually, there are many other cases that you can construct by varying the masses and initial velocities of the two colliding carts on the air track. To enable you to play with some of these, we have constructed the virtual air track applet below.

This applet simulates collisions in one dimension. To run a simulation select one of the scenarios in the drop down menu and hit Go. Press Stop at any time to pause the simulation. Pressing Go will restart it at that point. To create your own simulation, choose that option from the drop down menu, and two windows will appear that will allow you to edit the carts' properties. You may also edit their initial velocities and masses in the appropriate fields at the top, drag the carts to any position on the track, and edit a, a measure of the elasticity of a collision. An a value of 1 indicates an elastic collision, in which no kinetic energy is lost. Balls on a billiard table exhibit collisions that are nearly elastic. An a value of zero is a perfectly inelastic collision, in which the two colliding objects stick together after colliding. Colliding blobs of putty would exhibit perfectly inelastic collisions. Much of the energy in such a collision is converted to internal vibrations or heat.