PhysicsQuest: Momentum and Impulse


In this PhysicsQuest you will be researching both Momentum and Impulse, and how Momentum is conserved during collisions.


  • Answer all of the questions on a piece of paper using the links provided.  If a link isn’t working, then find another website that can answer the question.
  • All answers must be in your own words.  Do not just copy and paste to your paper!

Section 1: Momentum

  1. What is the definition of momentum?
  2. What symbol is used when representing momentum in equations?
  3. What is the equation for momentum? Define each of the variables in the equation, and include the units for each variable.
  4. Is momentum a vector or a scalar quantity? Why does it matter which it is?
  5. What are the 2 different ways to write the units for momentum?
  6. For each of the following pairs, determine which is most likely to have more momentum, and explain your reasoning for each:
    1. A Jeep Grand Cherokee travelling at normal highway speeds, or a Vespa Scooter travelling at normal city street speeds?
    2. A badminton birdie at maximum speed or a tennis ball at maximum speed?
    3. A baseball hit for a homerun, or a softball hit for a base hit?
    4. A hummingbird hovering over a flower or a grasshopper hopping from flower to flower?
    5. A Peregrine Falcon diving for its meal, or a Blue Jay diving from the top of a tree to attack a squirrel?

Section 2: Conservation of Momentum

  1. What is meant by a “conservation law”? What conditions are necessary in order to say that a system is obeying such a law?
  2. What is Newton’s third law of motion? In what way could this law connect to the idea of conserving momentum?
  3. Give at least two specific examples of when you have personally experienced conservation of momentum in action.


Use the following links for sections 3 and 4.

Section 3: Impulse

  1. What is the definition of Impulse?
  2. What symbol is used when representing impulse in equations (if there is a common symbol used)?
  3. What is the equation for impulse? Define each of the variables in the equation, and include the units for each variable.
  4. Is impulse a vector or a scalar quantity?
  5. What are the units for Impulse?

Section 4: Impulse-Momentum Theorem

  1. What does the Impulse-Momentum theorem state? Write it out both in words (describing the theorem) and in equation format.
  2. Explain, in terms of the impulse-momentum theorem, what the relationship is between the applied net force acting on an object and the time through which that force is applied when you give an object a set change in momentum.
  3. How would you determine the change in momentum for an object experiencing an applied net force for some amount of time if the size of the applied force was constantly changing?
  4. Estimate the force exerted upon a collision between an airplane traveling at 600 mi/hr and a flying duck with a weight of 1.0 pounds. Show your work and/or explanations, and use metric values.

2 Responses to PhysicsQuest: Momentum and Impulse

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