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Name: Jacob
Status: Student
Grade: K-3
Location: FL
Country: United States
Date: Spring 2009


Question:
Why would a heavy ball go further than a lighter ball? I am doing a science project. using my ultimate pitching machine it threw 4 balls with different weight (tennis, t-ball, light and heavy baseball). I used the settings I use for batting practice to throw the balls. The tennis ball went the shortest and the heavy baseball went the furthest. I thought the tennis ball would go the furthest because it is the lightest. We tested it twice with the same results. You can view the pitching machine on-line it is also called the UPM45. I have not seen any project like this on any web site. Is it momentum that causes the heavy balls to go further?



Replies:
Without knowing the exact sizes and masses of the balls, not the exact conditions of the throw, my first guess is that the pitching machine threw all the balls at about the same initial speed. (If you gave it a really heavy ball, such as one made of lead, it would probably have a somewhat slower initial speed.)

The difference between the balls, then, would be that air resistance would act with about the same force on all the balls (if they have the same size and speed), but the force would affect the lighter balls more. (Just as it takes less force to push a light ball than a heavy ball.)

Richard Barrans, Ph.D., M.Ed.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Wyoming


Hi Jacob,

The reason the lighter ball does not go as far as a heavier one (assuming both are roughly the same size) is that the lighter ball has less mass. Because it has less mass, the lighter ball has less energy than a heavier one traveling at the same speed, so the lighter ball will negatively accelerate (slow down) more quickly by air resistance.

Regards,

Bob Wilson



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