Physics in Sports

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Physics in Sports


Billiards, Pool or 8 Ball are the names given to this game. For many
of us 8 Ball is a game that we play at friends' place or at pool
houses, pubs and a good many other places. But when you are playing 8
Ball you would never really think about physics would you? But it is
there, and it is in play everytime the cue hits the ball to make it
curve, everytime you jump the ball over another or bounce it around
the cushioned sides to get the white ball to connect with one of your
own. This connection is also a matter of physics, the angles that you
hit the balls into the pockets at, the speeds that the balls travel at
and of course the ever embarrassing ball bouncing around the table
without hitting a ball at all. Why does the white ball slow down? Why
didn't that ball go in the pocket? Why did that ball hit the back of
the pocket and pop back out? These questions are all related to
physics and will be discussed throughout this investigation as well as
many others revolving around differences in equipment and other
interesting facts.

Description of Materials Used

The materials used for 8 Ball are generally the same for each person,
with the exception of people who have extra things that others don't
have (spiders, score counters, Kelly pool balls and snooker balls -
another type of game with similar characteristics but different
rules). 8 Ball is played on a table which is usually around about the
height of 120cm above the floor, the covering on the top of the pool
table is a cloth type surface called 'felt' made of a type of wool
which has a very small amount of friction, the table is normally in a
rectangular shape that normally can have as big dimensions as 3 metres
in length and around about a metre in width. 8 Ball is played with 16
balls on the table numbered from 1 to 15 and with a white ball that is

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MLA Citation:
"Physics in Sports." 25 Jun 2018
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the ball that must be hit with the cue at the beginning of each shot.
The cue is a cylindrical shaft made from wood that is hollow in
places, with a shaft down the middle of the cue which gives the cue
its power when it hits the ball; it has a hard but rubbery surface on
the top of the cue (leather) that you connect to ball with, they come
in a variety of sizes and have to main part to them; the butt (the
back half) of the cue and the shaft which is obviously the front half
of the cue where the majority of the power is generated from.

Billiards balls are made up of 'thermoset resin' which are words used
to describe synthetic substances that set permanently in the shape
that they are currently in when exposed to heat is an adjective used
to describe synthetic substances that set permanently when heated.
Another important part of physics believe it or not is the chalk
(which actually contains no chalk at all!) that is rubbed onto the end
of the cue which aids the player in their game due to friction applied
allowing better control of the ball of the cue and less chance of

Application of Laws and Principles

In 8 ball you can describe the whole motion of the game with the aid
of physics as well as a variety of laws related to physics. I will use
the laws to describe each individual action of a play which will
involve: the cue connecting the ball, the ball traveling across the
table, the ball bouncing off of the cushioning and then finally
hitting another ball into a pocket. When the ball connects with the
cue there is a transfer of energy and momentum in which the
Conservation of Energy law and Conservation of Momentum law apply,
these laws state that energy and momentum are not lost or gained but
are transferred to the object an its surroundings. The white ball is
originally stationary on the table and the cue is rested between the
players' fingers (which act as a base for the shot), the player then
proceeds to increase the momentum of the cue from stationary to an
accelerating state. The cue carries its momentum on until it connects
with the white ball causing the momentum to be transferred from the
cue to the white ball, meaning that the white ball will travel at a
speed close to that of the cue before the collision. Other laws that
come into play in this demonstration are Newton's First Law, which
says that an object will remain at rest until acted upon by an
'unbalanced force'. In this case the cue is the 'unbalanced force'
which makes the object act rest (the white ball) move from where it
was. Newton's Third Law tells us that for every action there is an
equal but opposite reaction, this is shown in the above act because,
the cue exerts a force on the ball to make it move and the ball places
an equal force back on the cue to stop its momentum.



Text Box: Ball Force on Cue



After the cue has collided with the white ball that ball must travel
in a straight line along the felt table to get to the point that it
was intended to reach. The ball cannot curve when it is on this path
after being hit because the force has been sent through the ball at a
particular angle and this is the direction that the ball travels in.
The law applied in this particular part of the shot is the law of
Conservation on Energy because even though the ball is slowly losing
speed due to the external forces acting on the energy of the ball, the
energy is still there it is just being moved to the table as it
travels over its surface.

Seeing as the player has aimed the ball on an angle at the cushion to
get around to his/her ball we must discuss what happens when the balls
is in contact with and after the cushion. The ball is traveling
towards to cushion at an angle and seeing as the ball is a completely
solid object it isn't going to deform at all when it hits the
cushioning. The cushioning on the other hand will momentarily
disfigure which will take some of the energy/speed away from the ball
that has connected with it which means a transfer of energy has taken
place between the ball and the cushion. The laws that apply to this
action are the laws of Conservation of Energy, demonstrates by the
point that even though the ball has lost energy, that energy has been
absorbed by the cushion during the collision.

The final part of the actions that I have demonstrated is the action
of the ball which has been moved by the cue, slowed down slightly by
the friction of the table, lost energy due to bouncing off of the
cushion, now into another ball pushing that ball into a pocket. The
white ball is travelling toward another ball that is right in line to
go in after the white ball collides with it. The white ball hits the
other ball and exerts a force on it bringing into play a number of
laws, the first being the Conservation of Energy law telling us that
after the white ball has hit the coloured ball the white ball will
lose the majority of its energy which will slow it down till it comes
to a halt and the coloured ball will take off from a zero velocity to
a velocity close to that of the white ball. The rest of the energy is
lost in the form of sound energy, if we add the new energy of the
coloured ball to the new energy of the white ball and make allowance
for the energy lost to sound energy it shows that energy has been
conserved throughout this action. Newton's 1st Law is demonstrated
also because the coloured ball which was originally at rest has been
acted upon by an unbalanced force (the white ball) and is now moving
towards the pocket. Newton's 2nd Law is also demonstrated by the
collision between the balls (2nd Law is F = m x a) meaning that the
force experienced by the coloured ball is due to the mass of the white
all multiplied by the velocity that it is travelling at divided by the
time it has taken to get there. Newton's 3rd Law tells us that every
action has an equal but opposite reaction, demonstrating that as the
white ball exerts a force onto the coloured ball it receives a force
back to neutralise its initial force and direction that it is


The picture on the right shows that energy is lost as the balls
collides due to sound energy. The dotted line shows the direction the
white ball will go after the grey ball has collided with it and the
arrows in the grey call show the forces acting back on it from the
white ball.


Discussion of External Influences

The external influences that act during a game of 8 Ball are quite
limited seeing as the game is generally played inside, the balls
rarely travel in the air (if they do it is not for more than second).
The external forces that act on the game of 8 Ball are forces of
gravitational acceleration, friction and deformation. Gravitational
acceleration acts on every ball on the table because when the balls
collide or start to move, as they move gravitational acceleration and
friction act on with the mass of the ball to cause the acceleration to
become a deceleration and eventually cause the ball to stop.
Deformation coupled with gravitational acceleration and friction cause
the ball to slow down even faster than without the deformation. The
deformation does not however take place on the ball itself, rather the
cushioning that it inevitably will hit sometime during the game. When
the cushion deforms it takes energy away from the ball and when it
reforms it gives the ball a slight spurt of speed which quickly turns
into a gradual deceleration.

Manufacture & Design

The manufacture and design of cues are generally limited; a cue is
designed as a thin, cylindrical shape which tapers to about the size
of a five cent piece as we get towards the end that the ball is hit
with. The cue can be different by the way that it can have a hollowed
inside (giving less power) or a fuller inside containing a rubbery
type of material which provides extra power from the cue. The cue
balls I have described in the materials section and these cannot be
changed with the exception of a slight variation of weight found in
each of the balls which cannot be controlled to a precise amount. The
chalk that is rubbed onto the cue tip is now actually not made of half
at all, rather is contains frictional particles for the extra control.
The cue tips can make a difference to the game, if the cue tip is too
hard and too flat the ball will not travel the top speed that it could
and will send a vibration back down the cue making it hard to control.
If the cue tip is too round the player will find themselves miscuing
the ball a lot, meaning it will come off the side of the cue and
travel in an undesired direction. If the cue tip is too soft it will
absorb too much power from the white ball and can be easily dented and
wrecked as well as affecting the accuracy of the players shots. The
table is a vital part of the game because it is the surface where you
play the game, it's like playing on a bad sports ground. If the table
becomes warn in the cushions the game is hard to judge, if the table
gets chips on the playing surface the ball may take unwanted turns and
this can get very frustrating. The cue is designed the way it is so it
has very little resistance from the air and gravity acting on it while
it is travelling towards the white ball. These are the reasons why the
cue is light and tapered towards the front; the balls are obviously
circular so they can roll around the table easily.


In the sport of 8 Ball Newton's Law as well as the Conservation of
Energy and Conservation of Momentum Laws are in use nearly everytime
you have a shot which I actually found surprising. There are many
differences in ideas to do with physics and billiards ranging from
people that try and work out the effects of different types of felt to
different cue tips. The external influences don't really play that big
part in physics as it is more the collisions between the balls that
slows them down, the main external influence was the cushioning which
slows the ball a little. Air shots are not really used in pool as it
is not good for the cue tip, dangerous to the table and very difficult
to control, but there are many techniques and strategies used by pool
players proving that 8 Ball is also a game of strategy as well as aim.


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