The Gaussian gun is an arrangement of magnets and ball bearings (pictured in Fig. 1) such that—when the leftmost ball is released—the rightmost ball is ejected at high speeds. The device has been described in several articles on energy education. The sudden appearance of kinetic energy offers a productive context for considering a range of challenging ideas: the often-counterintuitive relationship between force and potential energy, the escape velocity for attractive forces, why energy is required to break bonds, and why energy is released when bonds form. Beyond these ideas, it is also useful for motivating the representation of a potential well and bound states for both quantum mechanics and chemistry.
This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and AIP Publishing. This article appeared in:
Atkins Elliott, L.; Bolliou, A.; Irving, H.; & Jackson, D. (2019). Modeling Potential Energy of the Gaussian Gun. The Physics Teacher, 57(8), 520-522.
and may be found at doi: 10.1119/1.5131114
Atkins Elliott, Leslie; Bolliou, André; Irving, Hanna; and Jackson, Douglas. (2019). "Modeling Potential Energy of the Gaussian Gun". The Physics Teacher, 57(8), 520-522. https://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.5131114