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Like Rubber Balls and Yo-Yos, Do Coconuts Bounce?

Do coconuts bounce? A coconut does not bounce unless it falls from a great height. Coconuts normally don’t have properties that makes them bouncy, such as high levels of elasticity, or pressurized internal air.

Neither the coconut kernel nor full coconuts with the husk are “squishy” enough to bounce like a rubber ball. Physicists call this the “elasticity” of an object. Coconuts are highly dense and can weigh up to 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms) with or without the husk, which means they are unlikely to bounce.

There are some exceptions though. Read along to find out the physics of why coconuts don’t bounce, and under which conditions they will.

two coconuts on a wooden table

Why Does Anything Bounce? (and Why Coconuts Generally Don’t)

If you drop a rubber ball and a book down a balcony, you will notice that the rubber ball will bounce while the book won’t. The reason is the elasticity of the object, or its molecular ability to deform.

The molecules in any object have the ability to distort with force. For example, the molecules of the rubber ball are relaxed when it’s just sitting around. When you throw it down and it hits the floor, these molecules change shape by the force of the collision. This releases internal energy which has to move around, so the ball bounces back up.

A book does not do the same thing because its internal energy dissipates by some other means than rebounding. For the book, the internal energy released is vibration. There are other ways internal energy can dissipate, such as by fizzing out as heat.

The coconut is much like a book in this manner. It’s not as elastic as a rubber ball. Therefore, when a coconut hits the ground, its internal energy dissipates from vibration so it doesn’t bounce back.

Coconut kernels, the brown seed that you buy at the store, are more likely to shatter than bounce. Shattering is also a way of releasing internal energy.

Unlike the hard surface of the kernel, the coconut husk is fibrous and more elastic. That’s why coconuts falling from trees sometimes bounce rather than shatter.

When Do Coconuts Bounce?

Some coconuts with husks may bounce after falling from trees. A coconut tree can grow up to 60 feet. Physicists have observed that coconuts bounce away as far as 10 meters after falling from a tree.

When the fall is higher, there’s more internal energy building up inside an object because of gravity. You may have observed that rubber balls bounce higher if they are thrown harder or are dropped from a greater height. The same rules apply here. When there’s more internal energy, even a less elastic object like a coconut may bounce to release the buildup.

It doesn’t happen all the time, though. Sometimes, the ground may deform, absorbing the object’s internal energy. This is because the earth’s mass is so great. If a coconut falls on muddy ground, regardless of the height, it won’t bounce because the more elastic grounds deforms and absorbs the energy.

Even coconuts with husks can shatter if they’re dry enough. Therefore, the internal energy is released without the need to bounce back.

brown dog playing with a coconut at the beach

Can You Make a Coconut Bounce?

You can, under the right conditions. As mentioned above, the coconut has to be elastic enough. That means getting a coconut with a husk, not just the kernel. The ground has to be firm, and not elastic enough to deform with the impact.

You will also have to choose the right height so there’s enough internal energy building up to bounce without vibrating.

10 Other Riveting Fun Facts about Coconuts

If you love coconuts, here are some other facts to keep in mind:

  • The coconut is a fruit, not a nut or a seed as is often thought. Scientifically, it’s called a “drupe,” which also includes other fruits like peaches and olives.
  • Coconuts may have only recently become popular in the West, but people have been using it for thousands of years. Most tropical countries have historically used coconuts for food, medicine, and to make objects like spoons.
  • The English word “coconut” is derived from the Portuguese word “coco,” which means face or grimace. It’s believed that 16th century Portuguese conquerors thought the holes in the coconut kernel resembled faces. “Nut” is an English addition.
  • Coconut trees at maximum capacity can bear fruit for 60 to 80 years. At most, coconut trees can live for up to 120 years.
  • Coconuts can float for great distances in water and take root once ashore. There’s a story of a coconut that floated all the way to Scandinavia and took root.
  • There are over 1,300 different varieties of coconut. All of them are genetically descended from a single ancestor, which originated in either India or the Pacific.
  • It is possible to ferment coconut water to make alcoholic drinks. In fact, many cultures do this. You can find coconut toddy, coconut vodka, and even coconut wine.
  • Humans aren’t the only species that can pluck coconuts. In Thailand, the Southern pig-tailed macaque has been trained to pick coconuts. There are even schools to train these monkeys. As cute as it may sound, animal rights activists have called this abuse.
  • A “coconut crab” is a crustacean that likes to live near coconut trees.
  • It is possible for a falling coconut to kill a person, but the incidence of this happening is very rare. There are more shark attacks than people dying after being hit by falling coconuts.

Conclusion

Coconuts don’t normally bounce because the fruit lacks elasticity. Coconut kernels are more likely to shatter than bounce when they hit a surface. Some coconuts with husks can bounce after falling from great heights.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Riya Borah
Nutritionist Educator | Riya Borah is a nutritionist educator and her job involves guiding people towards a healthier lifestyle. Growing up in India, Riya was aware of just how much coconut was used on a daily basis. This encouraged her to research the properties of this versatile drupe. It opened her eyes to both the limitation and possibilities of coconut. Her aim is to now educate as many people as possible about the best ways to utilize coconut in their own lives.
An Important Disclaimer
The information on this page should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a doctor if you wish to consume any kind of tea regularly for the purpose of treating any condition or illness.
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