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Given the masses of two objects and their velocities before and after a collision, how could you determine the type of collision? The types of... |

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The before and after measurements help to define what type of collision occurred.  In an elastic collision, or even a nearly elastic collision, kinetic energy is conserved and momentum is minimized.  This example is used in billiard balls colliding with each other, bouncing off and continuing to travel.  Some of the kinetic energy is transferred to other types, but most stays kinetic.

The inelastic collision is a collision where the kinetic energy and momentum are evenly divided.  There is not a lot of motion after the collision, although there is some.  Pieces may fly off the two objects and be thrown about, as a result of the momentum of the two objects.  This is the type of collision demonstrated by an automobile crash.

In a perfectly elastic collision, the two objects stick together, as if they were one.  Kinetic energy is minimized and momentum is preserved.  This is the type of collision produced when throwing a clay ball at the floor, it flattens somewhat and sticks to the floor tile.

 

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