Ball Motion on Uneven Ramp Rails
If a ball is rolling down a slanted ramp and the sides of
the ramp expand and come back to the original or more narrow width how
will this affect the speed or force of the ball?
So long as the ball does not make contact with the edge of the ramp, the
ball will not "know" how wide the ramp is. If the ramp has a constant slant
to it, width will not matter in most situations.
If the ball does come in contact with the edge, this can cause a little
sideways motion. It can also affect whether the ball slips. If the ball is
extremely close to the edge, air currents within the room may affect the
motion of the ball. A rigid ball of significant mass will be less affected
by these things than will a rubber ball or a ball with very little weight.
When using a ramp that narrows, watch out for changes in the smoothness of
the ramp. Irregularities often occur near edges. As the ramp narrows,
irregularities can become closer to the ball's path.
Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Illinois Central College
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Update: June 2012