Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite

Edward F. Redish

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Momentum conservation in subsystems

Can a system whose momentum is conserved be made up of smaller systems whose individual momenta are not conserved? Explain why or why not and give an example.

Note to the instructor: Although this might seem trivial -- any system of interacting particles exchanging momentum is an example -- surprisingly, many students (even ones who can do the calculation) respond to this in the negative.

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Page last modified October 15, 2002: P&E20