The Official 2014 World Cup Ball is a Marvel of Engineering

After a dreadful response to the flighty 2010 Jabulani model, Adidas has pulled out all the stops to produce a more dependable game ball for 2014. The secret to the Brazuca model's success is all in the seams.

What's the Latest?

To say that the response to the Jabulani, the official game ball of 2010 World Cup, was contentious would be something of an understatement. The Adidas-designed ball was lambasted by players such as Italy's Giampaolo Pazzini (who called the Jabulani "a disaster") and Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar (who famously compared it to "a supermarket ball"). According to Popular Science's David Cassilo, the Jabulani's downfall was its susceptibility to drag. The ball's flawed design made it vulnerable to the whims of the wind and caused lots of awkwardness when crossed about the pitch.

Now, with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil only weeks away, Adidas expects its new Brazuca ball to fly truer than its fickle predecessor. The secret? The new design features deeper seams and a textured surface limiting the amount of outside air affecting the ball's flight.

What's the Big Idea?

Soccer (or football, if you're European or pretentious) may not strike observers as the kind of game from which to expect major technological advances. The sport is grounded in a novel concept -- just get the ball in the net -- and governing organizations such as FIFA have been insufferably stingy when it comes to the introduction of in-game technology such as instant replay. Yet the innate simplicity of soccer always leaves the door open for nature and physics to play a part in impacting the results of each match. The way a ball plays in the wind or the amount of grip a player gets on a rain-soaked throw-in have the power to determine wins, draws, and losses.

Keep an ear open for player reports and media coverage of the Brazuca during the next few weeks. if Adidas is correct in their assumption that they've created a better ball, chances are you won't hear much.

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Photo Credit: Jon Le-Bon/Shutterstock

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Originally Poe envisioned a parrot, not a raven

Quoth the parrot — "Nevermore."

The Green Parrot by Vincent van Gogh, 1886
Culture & Religion

By his mid-30s, Edgar Allan Poe was not only weary by the hardships of poverty, but also regularly intoxicated — by more than just macabre visions. Despite this, the Gothic writer lucidly insisted that there was still a method to his madness when it came to devising poems.

In an essay titled "The Philosophy of Composition," published in 1846 in Graham's Magazine, Poe divulged how his creative process worked, particularly in regard to his most famous poem: "No one point in [The Raven's] composition is rerferrible either to accident or intuition… the work proceeded step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem."

That said, contrary to the popular idea that Edgar Allan Poe penned his poems in single bursts of inspiration, The Raven did not pour out from his quivering quill in one fell swoop. Rather it came about through a calculative process — one that included making some pretty notable changes, even to its avian subject.

As an example of how his mind worked, Poe describes in his essay that originally the bird that flew across the dreary scene immortalized in the poem was actually… a parrot.

Poe had pondered ways he could have his one word refrain, "nevermore," continuously repeated throughout the poem. With that aim, he instantly thought of a parrot because it was a creature capable of uttering words. However, as quickly as Poe had found his feathered literary device, he became concerned with the bird's form on top of its important function.

And as it turns out, the parrot, a pretty resplendent bird, did not perch so well in Poe's mind because it didn't fit the mood he was going for—melancholy, "the most legitimate of all the poetical tones." In solving this dilemma in terms of imagery, he made adjustments to its plumage, altogether transforming the parrot — bestowing it with a black raiment.

"Very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven, as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone," Poe explained in his piece in Graham's. "I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven — the bird of ill omen — monotonously repeating the one word, 'Nevermore,' at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone…"

It was with these aesthetic calculations that Poe ousted the colorful bird that first flew into his mind, and welcomed the darker one that fluttered in:

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore…

The details of the poem — including the bird's appearance — needed to all blend together, like a recipe, to bring out the somber concept he was trying to convey: the descent into madness of a bereaved lover, a man lamenting the loss of a beautiful woman named Lenore. With that in mind, quoth the parrot — "nevermore" just doesn't have the same grave effect.

* * *

If you'd like to read more about Edgar Allan Poe, click here to review how his contemporaries tried to defame him in an attempt to thwart his success.

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