Science of Football – Prolate Spheroid

Science of Football

Ambience: Football Game

OK, you go long, and I’m going throw throw you a prolate spheroid. Well, it’s to to be better than a pigs bladder. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Ainissa Ramirez is an engineer and the co-author of the book, Newton’s Football the Science Behind America’s Game. We talked about the evolution of the game and the ball which didn’t always resemble what we would currently call a football.

Ramirez: Football started closer to the 19th century, and it evolved starting from something pretty gross the bladder of a pig. Back in those days, you used every part of the pig. And so, you could actually blow up a bladder pretty largely and create this thing that eventually became a ball. That’s where then name “pigskin” came from, Football took a turn different from rugby, where rugby was more of a carrying game to football became a carrying and throwing game. And so, the shape of the football the American football evolved more so that it got more pointy, or, as we call it, a prolate spheroid, which just means that it’s longer in one direction than the other. And, because it’s easier to throw when you have something very pointy, the shape evolved the way that it did.

As football evolved to include more passing of the ball, you needed a shape you could throw and throw far.

Ramirez: So, if I have two different balls a football and a basketball a football is easier to throw. The spin allows it to go farther because it’s a much more stable ball, and the shape allows it to cheat the wind, if you will. There’s less contact with air, and that allows it to overcome air resistance. A basketball – there’s gonna be much more air pushing against it. So, it’s not going to go as far. So, the football shape adds to its distance.

We’ll hear more about the science of football and prolate spheroids in future programs. PoP is made possible in part by VA Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.

Science of Football - Prolate Spheroid

You can throw a prolate spheroid - aka a football - a lot further than a basketball, or an inflated pig's bladder!
Air Date:01/30/2014
Scientist:
Transcript:

Science of Football

Ambience: Football Game

OK, you go long, and I'm going throw throw you a prolate spheroid. Well, it's to to be better than a pigs bladder. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Ainissa Ramirez is an engineer and the co-author of the book, Newton's Football the Science Behind America's Game. We talked about the evolution of the game and the ball which didn't always resemble what we would currently call a football.

Ramirez: Football started closer to the 19th century, and it evolved starting from something pretty gross the bladder of a pig. Back in those days, you used every part of the pig. And so, you could actually blow up a bladder pretty largely and create this thing that eventually became a ball. That's where then name "pigskin" came from, Football took a turn different from rugby, where rugby was more of a carrying game to football became a carrying and throwing game. And so, the shape of the football the American football evolved more so that it got more pointy, or, as we call it, a prolate spheroid, which just means that it's longer in one direction than the other. And, because it's easier to throw when you have something very pointy, the shape evolved the way that it did.

As football evolved to include more passing of the ball, you needed a shape you could throw and throw far.

Ramirez: So, if I have two different balls a football and a basketball a football is easier to throw. The spin allows it to go farther because it's a much more stable ball, and the shape allows it to cheat the wind, if you will. There's less contact with air, and that allows it to overcome air resistance. A basketball - there's gonna be much more air pushing against it. So, it's not going to go as far. So, the football shape adds to its distance.

We'll hear more about the science of football and prolate spheroids in future programs. PoP is made possible in part by VA Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.