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The Science Behind Bowling!

Is there any science behind bowling? BAM! CRASH! The bowling balls knock the pins down - what a great shot! What does this have to do with science? Is it not just about how good I am at aiming and shooting?

Actually, there is a lot of science packed in one game of bowling! Here is a challenge for you – can you identify all three of Newton’s laws of motion in one throw of the bowling ball? Understanding these laws might help you get a little better at the game too! Come on – let’s explore!

The First Law of Motion

When we throw a ball down the alley, it continues to roll at the same speed until the friction from the floor, the pins and the wall behind the pins, slow it down and bring it to a stop.

a purple bowling ball
This is the first law of motion at work.

Newton’s first law of motion: An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant speed, unless acted upon by an external force.

The Second Law of Motion

Throw the ball down the lane! The heavier the ball, the more force we need to throw it. The more force we use, the faster it will go and the greater the force it will have!

Here is the second law of motion at work.

F = ma – the vector sum of forces (F) on an object is equal to the mass (m) multiplied by the acceleration.

man bowling in action

This would mean that if you exerted the same force on two balls - one heavier and one lighter, the impact on the lighter ball will be greater.

The Third Law of Motion

That was a great throw. The ball goes rolling down the alley and WHAM! you knock down all the pins. Notice how the pins fall with great force as they come in contact with the ball? This is the third law of motion at work – every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The pins fly off with a force that is equal and opposite to the force of the ball that hits them.

pins hit by bowling ball

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