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Physics of Pinball Essay

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Physics of Pinball

Pinball is a fast pace game of physics and skill. With the knowledge of the mechanics and the physics of how the game works it can be played more effectively. Friction, gravity, potential energy, kinetic energy, circuits and momentum are just a few of the aspects of physics apply.

The first thing to do to start a game of pinball is to insert the coin. This alone requires many fundamental aspects of physics. The player inserts the coin and lets gravity take over. Gravity accelerates the coin to a certain speed in a specific direction or what is called velocity. The coin, which has mass, is now moving at a certain velocity. The coin now has linear momentum. To find the momentum of the coin we would take the
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The player has now compressed the spring in the ball shooter. The ball sitting in the ball shooter is at rest. It will be at rest until acted on by an unbalanced force. This is Newton’s first law of motion, the law of inertia (Kirkpatrick and Wheeler p31). The ball shooter is then released the spring decompresses and strikes the ball sending it up the incline to the top of the pinball playing field. The strike on the ball is called the impulse. The time interval it takes for the ball momentum to change. Since the ball has no momentum because it has zero velocity the ball shooter transfers its momentum at the impulse (The Ball Shooter 2003). This also takes place in the time frame of about a second.

The ball now has kinetic energy. Kinetic energy like momentum in that it comes from the mass of the object and its velocity. Kinetic energy was transferred from the plunger to the ball just like momentum was but only if the collision was elastic. During and elastic collision kinetic energy is conserved. The balls kinetic energy is half of its momentum squared. This means the balls momentum is its mass multiplied by velocity, and then it is squared and divided by two. If the velocity or speed of the ball is reduced by one half then the overall kinetic energy is reduced by a factor of four (Kirkpatrick and Wheeler p.106)

The ball uses this kinetic energy to move up the usually 6 to 7 degree incline to the top of the playing field. The kinetic
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