Friday Fun: Aerodynamics for Sports

Posted on September 3, 2010  Comments (4)

“Impossible” Soccer Kick Leads to New Physics Equation

The amazing goal — which left French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez too stunned to react — was scored during a friendly match in the run up to the 1998 World Cup. A group of French scientists, perhaps desperate to prove that at least the laws of physics weren’t actively rooting against their national team, have been able to figure out the trajectory of the ball and, with it, an equation to describe its unusual path.

It all comes down to the fact that, when a sphere spins, its trajectory is a spiral. Usually, gravity and the relatively short distance the ball travels cover up this spiral trajectory, but Carlos was a mere 115 feet away and kicked the ball hard enough to reveal its true spiral-like path.

In this open access paper, the spinning ball spiral, the authors explore the science behind ball paths in different situations.

one can identify sports dominated by aerodynamics (table tennis, golf and tennis) and sports dominated by gravity (basketball and handball). In between, we find sports where both gravity and aerodynamics play a comparable role (soccer, volleyball and baseball). Indeed, in the first category of sports, the spin is systematically used, while it is not relevant in the second category, and it only appears occasionally in the third one, in order to produce surprising trajectories.

Related: Friday Fun: Amazing GoalThe Science of the Football SwerveEngineering a Better Football

4 Responses to “Friday Fun: Aerodynamics for Sports”

  1. Kevin Herbert
    September 13th, 2010 @ 6:27 am

    He also had an amazingly log run up. It was a truly astonishing goal and I remember was talked about for weeks.

  2. emily
    October 6th, 2010 @ 4:01 am

    It’s very amazing~

  3. John
    July 19th, 2011 @ 5:56 am

    I remember watching this, and still remember my jaw nearly hanging to the floor. Using Footballs in class help my younger students appreciate aerodynamics, and also helps convert them into future footballers.

  4. Manchester United Said to Plan $1B Singapore IPO | Singapore
    August 16th, 2011 @ 11:32 pm

    The team has fan clubs in countries such as Thailand, Singapore and South Korea and a supporter base there of 190 million…

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