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Can bouncing on a ball cause water to break?

Whether bouncing on a ball can cause water to break is an interesting scientific question. To answer it, we need to first understand some basics about the physics involved.

The Physics of Bouncing

When you bounce on a ball, your weight and momentum cause the ball to deform and flatten slightly. As you lift off the ball, the elastic material of the ball springs back to its original shape, providing an upward push that launches you upwards. This reaction force from the deforming ball is what causes you to bounce.

The degree to which the ball deforms and provides a reaction force depends on factors like the ball’s size, the material it is made of, and the force applied by your weight. A larger, more elastic ball will allow for bigger bounces, while a small, stiff ball will barely deform.

When you land back on the ball after bouncing, it compresses again to absorb your downward momentum. The cycle then repeats, with the ball deforming and rebounding in response to your weight shifts.

Transmitting Force Through Water

Now let’s consider a ball bouncing on a surface covered with water. When you bounce and land forcefully on the ball, the force is transmitted through the ball and into the water underneath.

Water is essentially an incompressible fluid – the molecules are packed close together and do not free up much extra space when compressed. This means that water transmits force very efficiently.

The bouncing force exerted on the ball gets passed directly through to the water molecules immediately under the ball. These water molecules then transmit the force to neighboring molecules, spreading it outward through the liquid.

Can the Force Break Water Bonds?

The key question is whether this transmitted force can be enough to actually break the bonds between water molecules. Water’s molecular structure results in hydrogen bonding between molecules, which is what gives water many of its unique properties.

These hydrogen bonds have a certain strength that requires a substantial amount of mechanical force to overcome. However, the force applied by bouncing on a ball is usually not enough to directly break these bonds.

Some rough estimates of the amount of force needed are:

  • Tens of thousands of PSI pressure to break hydrogen bonds in liquid water.
  • Over 100,000 PSI pressure to break covalent O-H bonds within a water molecule.

In comparison, the pressure exerted by a 150 pound person bouncing on a standard playground ball may be around 5-10 PSI at most. This is several orders of magnitude too small to break molecular bonds.

Creating Bubbles and Sprays

While the bouncing force is insufficient to directly break water bonds, it can still cause visible water disruptions like bubbles, sprays, and waves. Here are some ways this can happen:

  • Air bubbles trapped among the water molecules get compressed and ejected upwards.
  • Impacts cause localized pressure differences that break water surface tension, spraying droplets.
  • The surface bounces up and down, creating waves and ripples in the water.

These effects make it appear as if the water is breaking, even though the water molecules themselves remain intact. The hydrogen bonds shake apart momentarily as the pressure pulses pass through, but then quickly re-form as the pressure dissipates.

variables that Affect Water Breaking

Several variables can influence the visible effects on the water when bouncing on a ball:

Height of Bounce

A higher bounce leads to greater impact force when landing, which will disturb the water more strongly.

Ball Size

A larger ball distributes the force over a wider area of water, reducing local pressure levels.

Ball Elasticity

More elastic balls provide greater reaction force, leading to higher bounces and impacts.

Ball Texture

Rougher ball textures break water surface tension more easily upon impact.

Water Depth

Shallower water will move and splash more drastically than deeper volumes.

Variable Effect on Water Breaking
Higher Bounce More disruption
Larger Ball Less disruption
More Elastic Ball More disruption
Rougher Texture More disruption
Shallower Water More disruption

Examples of Balls Bouncing on Water

Bouncing on balls over water surfaces is commonly seen at pools, lakes, and other recreational areas. Here are some examples:

  • Children jumping on beach balls in a swimming pool, creating splashes.
  • People bouncing on inflatable exercise balls on top of lakes, surrounded by ripples.
  • Acrobats performing tricks on trampolines over pools, landing with big splashes.

In all these cases, the impacts certainly create visible water motions and sprays. But the water itself remains intact at the molecular level.


Based on the physics involved, the forces exerted by bouncing on a ball are very unlikely to directly break the hydrogen bonds between water molecules.

However, bouncing can produce bubbles, sprays, waves, and other disruptive effects in the visible water structure due to the transmission of impact forces through the incompressible fluid.

The degree of visible disruption depends on factors like bounce height, ball characteristics, and water depth. But at normal recreational bouncing intensities, true molecular bond breaking does not occur.

So in summary, while the impacts can visibly disturb the water, the water itself at a molecular scale remains fully intact, despite the forces transmitted through bouncing on balls.