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Find the center of mass (CM) of the two connected particles. Then, determine the distance (r) from the center of mass of the part of the spring where the third particle hit it. Then, if you could allow a collision time and force while in contact, and assume the collision to be frictionless (this is might be hard for point particles and thin spring, cause ...


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The simple answer is that not only momentum but also energy needs to be conserved. This puts constraints on the number of balls that can be activated in the cradle. Note that this does not always give a unique solution either. But it enforces that $ n $ balls to $ n $ balls is a "stable" solution.



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