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American Journal of Physics

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Physics experiments, Juggling, Ping-pong balls, Friction -- Equipment & supplies


Juggling a spinning ball with a ping-pong paddle represents a challenge both in terms of hand-eye coordination and physics concepts. Here, we analyze the ping-pong ball’s motion, and explore how the correct paddle angle relates to the ball’s spin and speed, as it moves vertically up and down. For students, this requires engaging with concepts like momentum, angular momentum, free-body diagrams, and friction. The activities described in this article include high-speed video motion tracking of the ping-pong ball and the investigation of the frictional characteristics of the paddle. They can be done in a physics lab or at home, requiring only inexpensive or commonly used equipment, and can be undertaken by high school or college students.


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