What causes an item to fly out of a basket when you drop it onto the floor?


jracer524 asks:

At the grocery store, I often move shopping baskets from the self-checkout lane to the front door with the mobile attendant on the top. Usually when I put them down into the rack, the mobile attendant will fly out of the basket and hit the floor adjacent to the rack. Why does this happen?

By the way, the mobile attendant looks like a palm pilot or PDA.

Best answer:

Answer by Chief
The equal and opposite reaction of the basket hitting the floor. In order to stop the basket from falling, the ground pushes up on the basket and it’s contents.

One thought on “What causes an item to fly out of a basket when you drop it onto the floor?

  1. I would say that it’s because the shopping baskets aren’t tightly packed together. When you drop the baskets the bottom basket is essentially pushed towards the one immediately above it, hitting its underside and pushing it upwards, removing any remaining space until they were tightly packed. This continues up the stack of baskets until the top basket pushes against the mobile attendant. Since the mobile attendant is of less mass compared to the basket the force gives it greater upward accelration and it “jumps” out of the basket.

    To test if this idea is correct, push down against the stack of baskets until they are very tightly packed. The next time you drop them you should see the mobile attendant rise only a little bit. This is probably due to the slight flexibility of the plastic bottom of the basket which captures the downward energy of the attendant and returns it by recoiling upwards.

    Hope that helps.

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