# Conservation of momentum recoil velocity Virtual Experiment

#### Quiz

Q) Two skaters of different masses prepare to push off against one another. Which one will gain the larger velocity?

A. The more massive one
B. The less massive one
C. They will each have equal but opposite velocities.

Both must move with momentum values equal in magnitude but opposite in direction: $\ m_{1}v_{1} = m_{2}v_{2}$ the skater with the smaller mass must have the larger velocity

#### Conservation of momentum recoil velocity Simulation(Virtual Experiment)

When the next simulation is not visible, please refer to the following link.

Recoil
It is very important to define a system carefully. The momentum of a baseball changes when the external force of a bat is exerted on it. The baseball, therefore, is not an isolated system. On the other hand, the total momentum of two colliding balls within an isolated system does not change because all forces are between the objects within the system. Can you find the final velocities of the two in-line skaters in Figure 1 Assume that they are skating on a smooth surface with no external forces. They both start at rest, one behind the other.

FIGURE 1 The internal forces exerted by these in-line skaters cannot change the total momentum of the system.

Skater A gives skater B a push. Now both skaters are moving, making this situation similar to that of an explosion. Because the push was an internal force, you can use the law of conservation of momentum to find the skaters’ relative velocities. The total momentum of the system was zero before the push. Therefore, it also must be zero after the push.

BEFORE              AFTER
(State 1)            (State 2)

$\ p_{A1} + p_{B1} = p_{A2} + p_{B2}$
$\ ~~~~~~~ 0~~~~ ~~~~= p_{A2} + p_{B2}$
or: $\ ~~~~ p_{A2} ~~ = -p_{B2}$
$\ ~~~~m_{A}v_{A2} ~= -m_{B}v_{B2}$

The coordinate system was chosen so that the positive direction is to the left. The momenta of the skaters after the push are equal in magnitude but opposite in direction. The backward motion of skater A is an example of recoil. Are the skaters’ velocities equal and opposite? The last equation shown above, for the velocity of skater A, can be rewritten as follows:

$\ v_{A2} = -(\frac{m_{B}}{m_{A}}) v_{B_{2}}$

The velocities depend on the skaters’ relative masses. If skater A has a mass of 30.0 kg and skater B’s mass is 60.0 kg, then the ratio of their velocities will be 60/30 or 2.0. The less massive skater moves at the greater velocity. But, without more information about how hard they pushed, you can’t find the velocity of each skater.

Is momentum conserved when shooting a shotgun?
FIGURE 2. The shotgun recoils with a momentum equal in magnitude to the momentum of the shot.

The explosion of the powder causes the shot to move very rapidly forward. If the gun is free to move, it will recoil backward with a momentum equal in magnitude to the momentum of the shot. Even though the mass of the shot is small, its momentum is large due to its large velocity. The shotgun recoils with a momentum equal in magnitude to the momentum of the shot. The recoil velocity of the shotgun will be smaller than the shot’s velocity because the shotgun has more mass, but it can still be sizeable.

How can you avoid a bruised shoulder?
If the shotgun is held firmly against your shoulder, it doesn’t hurt as much. If you think of the system as just the shotgun and the pellets, then your shoulder applies a strong external force to the system. Since conservation of momentum requires the external force to be zero, the momentum of this system is not conserved. If you think of the system as including yourself with your shoulder against the shotgun, then momentum is conserved because all the forces involved are internal to this system (except possibly friction between your feet and the earth). With your mass added to the system, the recoil velocity is smaller. If you think of the system as including yourself and the earth, then momentum is conserved because all the forces involved are internal to this system. The large mass of the earth means that the change in momentum of the earth would be imperceptible.

How does a rocket accelerate in empty space when there is nothing to push against?

FIGURE 3. The momentum of the rocket is equal to the momentum of the gases

The exhaust gases rushing out of the tail of the rocket have both mass and velocity and, therefore, momentum. The momentum gained by the rocket in the forward direction is equal to the momentum of the exhaust gases in the opposite direction. The rocket and the exhaust gases push against each other. Newton’s third law applies.