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Essay on Physics of Pinball

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Physics of Pinball


Pinball is a fast pace game of physics and skill. With the knowledge of the mechanics and the physics of how the game works it can be played more effectively. Friction, gravity, potential energy, kinetic energy, circuits and momentum are just a few of the aspects of physics apply.

The first thing to do to start a game of pinball is to insert the coin. This alone requires many fundamental aspects of physics. The player inserts the coin and lets gravity take over. Gravity accelerates the coin to a certain speed in a specific direction or what is called velocity. The coin, which has mass, is now moving at a certain velocity. The coin now has linear momentum. To find the momentum of the coin we would take the mass and multiply it by the velocity. If the velocity were doubled (the coin doubles in speed) then the momentum of the coin would double. The coin then strikes a lever transferring some of its momentum to the lever. The coin then drops into the coin box. Usually this lever is a small wire similar to a paper clip. It has to be of small mass or the momentum of the coin would have lesser of an effect. When the coin strikes the lever it transfers some of its momentum and causes the lever to move. The lever is connected to a switch. This switch momentarily completes a circuit causing electrons to move through the system to notify the game system to start and release a ball into the ball shooter. Amazingly this all happens in the space of about a second.

Once the ball is in the ball shooter the player pulls on the plunger to compress the spring. This is called work. The player applies force to the plunger and pulls it a certain distance. In this case it’s only a couple of inches. The physics definit...


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...lete and signal the machine to shut the flippers off. This will cause the ball to roll down the incline and down the drain (Brannon 2003).

Understanding how physics is used in an every day pinball machine will help with the strategy of the game. Knowing how the tilt works and how much force to apply when shooting the ball can improve any ones’ game. Even in an environment without friction or gravity pinball can be played. Without physics the game would not exist. Nor would anything exist.

Works Sited

Kirkpatrick, Larry D and Wheeler, Gerald F. (2001) Physics A World View. Harcourt College Publishers, New York.

Brannon, Shel. ( April 2003) How Pinbal Machines Work. Available http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/pinball-machine.htm/printable

Unknown (April 2003) The Ball Shooter. availible http://personal.myvine.com/~pinball/html/physics/shooter.html


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