If ONE BALL rams into the stack, why must ONE BALL come out the other end at the same speed? Why can’t TWO BALLS come out at HALF the speed, for example? (This outcome also conserves the total momentum!) And how about all FIVE BALLS swinging away at 1/5 the speed?

True enough. There are infinite number of outcomes that fulfil the Principle of Conservation of Momentum! However, since these collisions are elastic, the total kinetic energy should be unchanged after the collision as well. With this additional consideration, we realize there is only one possible outcome. The same number of balls always come out the other end at the same end, conserving both total momentum and keeping total kinetic energy unchanged.

Reblogged this on xmPhysics.