Physics of Ping Pong
One of my favorite sports to play is ping pong. I've always had a ping pong table in my basement and play with my brothers and with friends pretty frequently. I've always been amazed at the skill of Olympic table tennis players. If you've never seen Olympic table tennis, It's amazing how fast the little ball is hit back and forth between the two players. Sometimes it goes so fast that you can barely see it. The physics behind the game can explain why these Olympic athletes are so skilled at the game. In serving the ball, a player must throw the ball out of his hand at least 6 inches in the air and then hit the ball so that it bounces once on his/her side and once on his opponent's side. According to Newton's second law of motion, the greater the force that is applied to an object, the greater the object will accelerate. Olympic table tennis players hit the ball with great force, causing it to accelerate so rapidly that the ball can hardly be seen. Although they can serve the ball with such great force, their opponent is still able to return the ball without moving his paddle very much at all. The opponent does not need to worry very much about applying a great force to the ball as it comes towards him/her because of Newton's third law. An action force always has an equal and opposite reaction force. As the ball's inertia causes it to travel towards the opponent, it applies a force to the paddle, and the paddle applies an equal and opposite reaction force, causing the ball to accelerate in the opposite direction. Therefore, the force causing the ball to accelerate back towards the player who served it is caused mostly by the inertia of the ball. Watch this video below showing the best 10 table tennis rallies of all time.