Tag Archives: physics

Applied physics, Rugby, and Loving the NFL

The good people at Earth Unplugged have produced a video of various rugby moves in slow-motion.

It’s cool but more so in and of itself.  There is no aestheticizing of the physicality of the sport the way that NFL Films does to football.  It’s not just the slow-motion.  It’s the voice-over narration, camera angles, and music.

Over the years since I started watching NFL games and the occasional college game (go Yellow Jackets!), I’ve met/seen more exhibitionistic NFL fans than college fans.  It’ll be the height of March Madness or the summer Olympics and I’ll see an NFL logo on a shirt.  If you happen to love the NFL as much as these people do, and could envision yourself submitting a compelling textual or audiovisual entry to a contest where five people and friend(s) will win a Super Bowl XLVIII prize package, please click here for more details.  According to the press release:

Stories submitted through Tuesday, November 5 will be entered into the contest that will ultimately select five winners.

Following the deadline for submissions, an NFL panel will select 10 finalists whose stories will be turned into short features by NFL Films that will be unveiled on Thanksgiving weekend and air during games throughout the month of December. Fans will be able to vote for the finalist story that they believe is the most engaging on TogetherWeMakeFootball.com through Monday, Dec. 23. The five winning storytellers will be announced during the NFL Playoffs.

If you can envision yourself taking time off from school or work for up to a week in early February 2014*, you should do it.  You’ll be the envy of your Eagle Scout troupe, your ballet class, your fraternity, or your city block.  You could be the next Samantha Gordon.


* Not to mention a stack of release forms and other legal documents detailing the extent to which what you wrote, drew, taped, recorded, or conveyed in this particular manner may be used for promotions by the league or its subsidiaries/affiliates…and even if what you submitted is still considered your property or by entering the contest you relinquish all rights to the contents that you just submitted.

** Be sure to scroll down and click on the Rules/Official Rules link to read the fine print, including what constitutes an eligible entry.**

Off Topic: When people or you have to go

as in leave the premises or quit, there are some pretty clever and snarky remarks to be made. In the same flavor of When people go lame, I bring to you:

From the chapter on You’re Fired

Tell someone their services are no longer needed:

“Think of this as your a get-out-of-jail-free card.”

“Some day soon you may want to use me as a reference.”

“These are the days I hate being a boss, but I won’t be your boss much longer.”

“We’ll both be happier when you’re free to pursue your other interests.”

“Don’t think of this as a closed door; look at it as an open window.”

“This comes from both the top and the bottom. The middle had no opinion.”

From the chapter I Quit

Tell everyone you will no longer be offering your services:

“The bad news is that I’m leaving; the good news is that I’m giving you twelve months’ notice.”

“I look forward to training my replacement.”

“I’ve learned so much from you that it’s time to start my own business.”

“Though this job has been financially and emotionally rewarding, I can no longer deny my dreams.”

“I’m disavowing capitalism.”

“I’ve accepted a position that doesn’t require me to wear a uniform.”

“It’s my goal to have a dozen careers by the time I’m fifty.”

“I’m losing my identity in your corporate image.”

“You don’t recycle.”

“I’m just a number to you.”

“This job isn’t exactly the goldmine you promised.”

From the chapter Letting Go of the Help

Tell a provider that their services are no longer needed:

“I can analyze my own dreams.”

“I always leave feeling worse than when I came in.”

“Your couch is lumpy.”

“You don’t validate for parking.”

“It appears you skipped the bedside manner class in medical school.”

“I found a second opinion I liked better.”

“I found a dentist who lets me watch DVDs during treatment.”

From the chapter Romance is Dead

Tell someone you’re moving on or don’t even want to begin:

“I’d only be going out with you to make my ex jealous.”

“You’re geographically or otherwise undesirable.”

“No need to go any further–I googled you.”

“Dogs are great judges of character and mine doesn’t like you.”

“I’m really busy for the next few years.”

“What could possibly have made you think I would go out with you?”

“It’s funny–I don’t even want to be friends.”

“I need to discover who I am without you.”

“You’re way out of my league.”

“I woke up beside you and knew it was wrong.”

“Now that I’m not medicated, I realize that I don’t need you anymore.”

“I’ll never convert for you.”

“I’m having some sort of allergic reaction.”


Get more goodies here.

I’ve also added a new link to the Net Gems section. It’s a web site called Intuitor Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics to devoted to the discussion of how science is affected by films that demand viewers suspend disbelief. You’ll learn more than just “real” science. Here’s a bit on cigarettes.

Field goal this prolate spheroid

It took much longer than I thought, but I finally finished reading Timothy Gay’s book The Physics of Football.


Gay is a physics professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  This book of his makes me wish I were better at physics.  The subject fascinates me much more than political science and economics (as an entity separate from an industry like the arts or agriculture), but at a certain level, my mind stops making sense of its principles.

The Physics of Football (formerly published as Football Physics),  is technical enough not to strike hardcore science scholars as fluffy, but is comprised of clearly defined prose so that average science folks don’t feel like complete idiots.  Being a fan (or participant) of football definitely helps.

There are many fascinating bits throughout the book, which consists of nine chapters, an introduction, an appendix, notes, acknowledgments, and an index.  The chapters are as follows: Blocking and Tackling; The Pit; The West Coast Offense Explained; The Football in Flight; Kicking the Football; Passing the Football; Gear; Turf; and Waves in the Stadium.

I’m really zonked right now, and my brain is having a hard time forming more coherent and articulate thoughts.  Thus, I shall leave you with a few enlightening excerpts from the book:

The NFL record for a successful field goal is 63 yards, held by both the New Orleans Saints’ Tom Dempsey (1970) and the Denver Broncos’ Jason Elam (1998)…(The goalpost was moved from the front to the back of the end zone in 1978 by the NFL, but the field-goal distance of record is still specified in terms of the actual distance between the kicking tee and the uprights)….There is one crucial difference between the two NFL record field goals: Dempsey’s was kicked in New Orleans, essentially at sea level, whereas Elam’s was kicked in the old Mile High Stadium…Dempsey had to kick the ball harder than Elam….Dempsey needed to kick the ball with a speed of 173 feet per second, or 118 miles per hour.  Elam would have had to launch his kick at 145 feet per second, or 99 miles per hour” (140-141).

Of all the varied skills required of players, passing is the most difficult to master.  This is one of the reasons quarterbacks get paid more than guards” (168).

“The shape of the football–that of a prolate spheroid, to use a math phrase, has three obvious but important implications.  First, it’s easier to throw than a sphere. …Second, the football is easier to carry than a soccer ball.  It can be tucked firmly between the ball carrier’s arm and rib cage in a manner that makes fumbling much less likely.  Finally, the football’s unique shape gives it an exceptionally erratic bounce that has unpredictable consequence over the course of a game” (203).

I sometimes tell my students that the history of physics goes hand in hand with humans’ never-ending quest to kill each other more efficiently.  That idea is illustrated quite well by the evolutionary development of football protective gear” (219).