BCIT Physics Department

Demonstration Manual

Linear Dynamics

DLD09 - Collision Sphere Demonstration - Newton's Cradle


- To demonstrate the impact of suspended spheres and the exchange of momentum obtained when one or more balls are released against a row of spheres.


DLD09 - Collision Sphere Demonstration - Newton's Cradle


When one of the end balls ("the first") is pulled sideways, the attached string makes it follow an upward arc. When it is let go, it strikes the second ball and comes to nearly a dead stop. The ball on the opposite side acquires most of the velocity of the first ball and swings in an arc almost as high as the release height of the first ball. This shows that the last ball receives most of the energy and momentum of the first ball. The impact produces a compression wave that propagates through the intermediate balls.

Any efficiently elastic material such as steel does this, as long as the kinetic energy is temporarily stored as potential energy in the compression of the material rather than being lost as heat. There are slight movements in all the balls after the initial strike but the last ball receives most of the initial energy from the impact of the first ball. When two (or three) balls are dropped, the two (or three) balls on the opposite side swing out.

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- Video Created at Utah State University by Professor Boyd F. Edwards and assistants.