How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 85

Why does a basketball bounce higher than a bowling ball?
When a ball bounces from a rigid surface, the ball's surface distorts inward and then pops back outward. During the inward motion, the ball stores energy—pushing its surface inward takes energy. During the outward motion, the ball releases that stored energy. But not all the energy invested in the ball emerges as useful work. Some of that energy is turned into thermal energy and never reappears. A properly inflated basketball returns a good fraction of the energy it receives while other balls may not. In fact, a bowling ball bounces pretty well from a hard surface such as cement. But when it hits a softer surface such as wood, the wood receives much of its energy and wastes that energy as thermal energy.

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