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Physics Coursework Gravity Investigation

Extracts from this document...


Julian Gertner 4c                28) 06) 04



To investigate the efficiency of the bounce of a golf ball at different release heights.

Scientific knowledge:

In this experiment, the golf ball used will have undergone several types of energy transfers from the time of release to the time it reaches its’ bounce height. From the moment the golf ball is lifted from the floor, it contains gravitational potential energy (G.P.E). Therefore, the golf ball must contain gravitational potential energy when held at a release height. The formula for gravitational potential energy is:

                        G.P.E = Mass × Gravity × Height

It is clear that the formula is made of three measurements, mass, gravity and height. The mass of the golf ball would have been kept constant throughout the experiment, simply by using the same ball. Gravity is equal to, 9.81ms-2 on earth. Therefore, gravity remained the same throughout the experiment. The final measurement in the formula, height, doesn’t remain the same as there were different release heights. With this in mind, if the value for mass and gravity remain the same but the height varies, then the gravitational potential energy must vary with the heights. If the release height increases, the gravitational potential energy increases. For example, if the release height of the golf ball doubled, the gravitational potential energy of the golf ball would also double. The release height is directly proportional to the gravitational potential energy.

        The first energy transfer the golf ball undergoes, relevant to the experiment, is from the gravitational potential energy at the release height, to kinetic energy (K.E), from the moment the ball is released. The formula for kinetic energy is:

                        K.E. =          ½ × Mass × Velocity2

The measurement that will vary in this formula is the velocity of the ball.

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Preliminary Method:

The same method was used for the preliminary work as was used below, in the main experiment. However, different types of balls were used, released at different heights and bounced on different surfaces, as seen in the table above. Furthermore, in order to obtain readings for the hot squash ball, the ball was simply rolled on a bench several times to generate some heat.


To achieve the most accurate result possible, it is important to investigate a ball that bounces constantly. In doing my preliminary experiment, the golf ball proved to be the most constant when bounced. I found the golf ball to be the most constant as the other balls had irregularities and further problems affecting the accuracy of the investigation. The baseball was slightly irregular in its shape, giving several random readings. The large seam on the baseball may have also contributed to the readings it gave. The tennis and baseball were both big and the bigger the ball the bigger the chance of unequal quality of surface. For example, parts of the tennis ball may have been worn away, an unequal quality of surface causing it to bounce irregularly. The tennis ball also has a white seam, which may have been the part of the ball that made contact with the floor, resulting in another irregular reading. The squash ball was very inefficient, delivering very low bounce heights, making it very hard to judge what height the ball reached. The lower the efficiency, the lower the bounce and the more inaccurate the readings are, as the percentage error is bigger. Furthermore, the squash ball was temperature dependent meaning the air expands as the temperature increases. This causes the squash ball to increase in size, becoming denser and resulting in further inaccuracies.

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        For further work, one could have a larger range, reaching 300 or 400cm. This would show the effects of air resistance a lot clearer than at 200cm. Different types of golf balls could be used to show which is most efficient. The surface upon which the ball bounces could be different lengths and thickness of grass on a golf course, such as, on the putting green, in the sand or in the rough. To further extend the experiment, it could be done in a vacuum to rid the problem of air resistance. I would strongly predict that the efficiency would be very near to 100% as little sound or heat energy would be lost, if any. Air resistance would be none existent, so the release height wouldn’t effect the efficiency unless the release height was sufficient for the golf ball to reach its’ terminal velocity, in which case the efficiency would keep decreasing as the bounce height would remain the same.                

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