Science of Football Controlling Chaos
Ambience: Football Game
Ramirez: When the ball is thrown, we know exactly where it’s going, but when it’s bounced, we don’t know where the ball’s going. And so, that’s where we say that we incur randomness.
The shape of a football lends itself to being thrown for long distances, and for being carried. But when the ball hits the ground, it’s time for a little chaos. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
football crowd ambience: “Throw the ball!”
Ramirez: It might bounce a couple of times. It might roll. You have no idea. So, the shape makes it so unstable, in terms of where the bounce will take it.
Ainissa Ramirez is an engineer and the co-author of the book “Newton’s Football the Science Behind America’s Game.”
Ramirez: And that makes the game so exciting because football players look like huge warriors, and then, they’re reduced to kindergartners as they try and scramble for the ball.
And controlling the chaos of a fumbled ball could mean the difference between winning and losing a game.
Ramirez: We analyzed two teams, and we looked which one was better at recovering fumbles balls that have been dropped. And we saw that the team that spent a little bit more time recovering fumbles actually did better that season. So, with all this parity, meaning that teams look so alike and players look so alike, in terms of their ability, the one little knob that we can still control is controlling the bounce of the ball controlling the fumble, or, as we say, controlling chaos so that you have you have a better chance of getting a championship. When I say “control chaos”, what I mean, specifically, is that we train for everything. We train for how high we’re going to jump, how fast we can catch. How much time do you spend recovering fumbles in practice? That’s what we mean.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.