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To Break, or Not to Break?

How does Physics explain why one dropped glass shatters while another remains unharmed? 

Credit: AnneCN
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39551578@N00/4314172542/in/photolist-7zegcd-e5cNCr-7KtsNa-dBhegh-8CxG6U-au1Rvg-buDgLL-9Jgjp1-buDe5J-buDgjy-buDeA1-buDecu-bHxZGg-buDfoU-bHy1rt-buDfMw-ab7HdE-aGkkUp-aGknQt-aGknaV-aGkjrk-aGkkaK-7BNGPx-dm2yR5-dm38Df-dm2y8Z-dm2EVn-dm2vDf-dm2NGA-dm2KFR-dm2FE1-dm2sHb-dm31kk-dm3bMS-7XqAK3-dbrJue-dVVWV9
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Why could only one wine glass be broken? [Figure1]

A famous millionaire is hosting an expensive dinner party at his mansion. Everywhere, guests eat and drink from fine and fragile plates and glasses. A waiter has left a cart out in the middle of the room laden with used wine glasses and dinner plates. Having finished his drink, a guest is making his way from a carpeted living room and towards the cart. Suddenly, the glass slips from his hand and falls towards the carpet! At the same time, a hurried waiter bumps into the cart and sends another glass hurtling for the marble floor — from the same height at which the guest dropped his own glass. Inevitably, the glass dropped by the guest soon hits the carpet while the glass bumped by the waiter hits the marble floor. 

We learned that impulse means a change in momentum for an object. The equation for impulse is: \triangle\overrightarrow{p} = \overrightarrow{F}_{net} \triangle{t}. It may be helpful to remember that on Earth, the downward acceleration on any object by gravity is always the same. 

Creative Applications

1. Which of the two glasses is more likely to crack or shatter? Why?

2. Which glass has a greater impulse? Explain.

3. Why does throwing an object at the ground have different results than dropping it?

4. Suggest other possible happenings during the dinner party in which you could explore impulse.



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