A Super Ball (aka SuperBall) is a toy based on a type of synthetic rubber invented in 1964 by chemist Norman Stingley. It is an extremely elastic ball made of Zectron which contains the synthetic polymer polybutadiene as well as hydrated silica, zinc oxide, stearic acid, and other ingredients. This compound is vulcanized with sulfur at a temperature of 165 degrees Celsius and formed at a pressure of 3,500psi. The resulting Super Ball has a very high coefficient of restitution, and dropped from shoulder level, Super Balls snap nearly all the way back; thrown down by an average adult, it can leap over a three-story building.
Toys similar to Super Balls are more generally known as bouncy balls, a term which covers other balls by different manufacturers with different formulations.
After Stingley invented the synthetic rubber, he tried to find uses for it and someone to manufacture it. He offered his invention to the Bettis Rubber Company (for whom he worked at the time). They turned it down because the material was not very durable. So he took it to the toy company Wham-O and they worked on developing a more durable version. This version is still manufactured by Wham-O.
"It took us nearly two years to iron the kinks out of Super Ball before we produced it," according to Richard Knerr, President of Wham-O. "It always had that marvelous springiness... But it had a tendency to fly apart. We've licked that with a very high-pressure technique for forming it. Now we're selling millions." 
When the Super Ball was first introduced, it became a fad. Peak production was over 170,000 Super Balls per day. By December 1965 over six million had been sold, and US Presidential adviser McGeorge Bundy had five dozen Super Balls shipped to the White House for the amusement of the staff. Knowing that fads are often short-lived, Wham-O Executive Vice-president Richard P. Knerr said, "Each Super Ball bounce is 92% as high as the last. If our sales don't come down any faster than that, we've got it made." Initially the full size Super Ball sold for ninety-eight cents at retail; by the end of 1966 its colorful miniature versions sold for as little as ten cents in vending machines.
In the late 1960s Wham-O made a "giant" Super Ball, roughly the size of a bowling ball, as a promotional stunt. It fell from the 23rd story window of an Australian hotel (or some reports say, from the roof) and destroyed a parked convertible car on the second bounce.
The composer Alcides Lanza, in his composition Plectros III (1971), specified that the performer should use a pair of Super Balls on sticks as mallets with which to strike and rub the strings and case of a piano. Lanza purchased several Super Balls in 1965 as toys for his son, but soon he started experimenting with the sounds they made when rubbed along the frame or strings of a piano. Several years later, Plectros III resulted.
After watching his children play with a Super Ball, Lamar Hunt, founder of the American Football League, coined the term Super Bowl. In a July 25, 1966, letter to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Hunt wrote, "I have kiddingly called it the 'Super Bowl,' which obviously can be improved upon." Although the leagues' owners decided on the name "AFL-NFL Championship Game," the media immediately picked up on Hunt's "Super Bowl" name, which would become official beginning with the third annual game.
According to one study "If a pen is stuck in a hard rubber ball and dropped from a certain height, the pen may bounce to several times that height." If a Super Ball is dropped without spin onto a hard surface, with a small ball bearing on top of the Super Ball, the bearing rebounds to a great height.
High school physics teachers use Super Balls to educate students on usual and unusual models of impacts.
The "rough" nature of a Super Ball makes its impact characteristics different from otherwise similar smooth balls. The resulting behavior is quite complex. The Super Ball has been used as an illustration of the principle of Time Reversal Invariance.
A Super Ball is observed to reverse the direction of spin on each bounce. This effect depends on the tangential compliance and frictional effect in the collision, it cannot be explained by rigid body impact theory, and would not occur were the ball perfectly rigid. (Tangential compliance is the degree to which one body clings to rather than slips over another at the point of impact.)
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For bounces on a wooden bench top, the coefficient of restitution,....is typically about e = 0.8.
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...on a hard surface...0.85 for a superball
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Lamar Hunt, who died in December, coined the term Super Bowl in the late 1960s after watching his kids play with a Super Ball, the bouncy creation of iconic toy manufacturer Wham-O.
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- Brogliato, Bernard (April 1999). Nonsmooth Mechanics: Models, Dynamics, and Control. Springer. p. 153. ISBN 1-85233-143-7. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
- Garwin, Richard L. "Kinematics of an Ultraelastic Rough Ball". American Journal of Physics (American Association of Physics Teachers) 37 (1): 88–92. doi:10.1119/1.1975420. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
A Rough ball which conserves kinetic energy exhibits unexpected behavior after a single bounce and bizarre behavior after three bounces against parallel surfaces. The Wham-O Super-Ball...appears to approximate this behavior...quite different from that of a...smooth ball
- Coatta, Dan; Bram Lambrecht (December 10, 2004). Dynamics of a Super Ball: How Reversible Tangential Impacts Make for an Entertaining Toy. p. 1. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
Super balls are simple toys that exhibit surprisingly complex behavior. Part of the fun of a super ball is a result of the high friction between the rubber of the ball and the surface it bounces against. This friction places moments on the ball that cause it to spin after bouncing. The exchange of energy between rotational and translational forms that occurs at each collision makes the super ball’s behavior difficult to predict.
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Strobe photographs of a spinning, bouncing `superball' are analysed to determine whether observed reversals of spin during bouncing fit a model analogous to Newton's experimental law of restitution. Rough, but imperfect agreement is found.
- Aston, Philip J.; R Shail (October 11, 2007). "The Dynamics of a Bouncing Superball With Spin". Dynamical Systems. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
When a superball is thrown forwards but with backspin, it is observed to reverse both direction and spin for a few bounces before settling to bouncing motion in one direction.
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