Physics Lens

2-Dimensional Kinematics Problem: Shooting a dropping coconut

The following is a question (of a more challenging nature) posed to JC1 students when they are studying the topic of kinematics.

A gun is aimed in such a way that the initial direction of the velocity of its bullet lies along a straight line that points toward a coconut on a tree. When the gun is fired, a monkey in the tree drops the coconut simultaneously. Neglecting air resistance, will the bullet hit the coconut?

coconut kinematics
Two-Dimensional Kinematics: Gun and Coconut Problem

It is probably safe to say that if the bullet hits the coconut, the sum of the downward displacement of coconut $$s_{yc}$$ and the upward displacement of the bullet $$s_{yb}$$ must be equal to the initial vertical separation between them, i.e. $$s_{yc}+s_{yb}=H$$

This is what we need to prove.

Since $$s_{yc}=\frac{1}{2}gt^2$$

$$s_{yb}=u\text{sin}\theta{t}-\frac{1}{2}gt^2$$ and $$s_{xb}=u\text{cos}\theta t$$

$$s_{yc}+s_{yb}=u\text{sin}\theta{t}=u\text{sin}\theta\times \frac{s_{xb}}{u\text{cos}\theta}=s_{xb}\times{\text{tan}\theta}$$

At the same time, the relationship between $$H$$ and the horizontal displacement of the bullet $$s_{xb}$$ before it reaches the same horizontal position of the coconut is $$\text{tan}\theta=\frac{H}{s_{xb}}$$

Hence, $$s_{yc}+s_{yb}=H$$

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