The Super Bowl is a Gigantic Physics Classroom

Sports and science go together like Beast Mode and Skittles. Throws, collisions, sprints, and kicks are all dependent on the Laws of Physics.

It's common practice for physics professors and public scientists to use pop culture to teach science lessons. Our buddy Neil deGrasse Tyson is a good example. He drops science facts filtered through movies:


In #Interstellar: You observe great Tidal Waves from great Tidal Forces, of magnitude that orbiting a Black Hole might create

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 10, 2014

Tweets about TV Shows:

The Big Bang Theory sitcom is so successful, if you Google “Big Bang Theory” It precedes the actual creation of the Universe.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) September 11, 2012

And constantly merges science with his other love: sports.

A 50-yard field goal in MetLife stadium will deflect nearly 1/2 inch due to Earth’s rotation — meet the Coriolis force.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 3, 2014

At 200mph, a nice @NASCAR speed, it’d take 1200hrs (50days) to drive to the Moon. And drivers would never need to turn left.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) May 26, 2014

I like stuff like this. I think a lot of other folks do too. All too often we accuse academics of being lofty holier-than-thous who refuse to come down to the public's level. And all too often that accusation has merit.

That's why things like Sports Science are so entertaining and useful; they take purportedly high-minded concepts and apply them to fun, real-world examples.

Rhett Allain over at Wired does this better than anyone. He has a great piece up right now that adds to his bevy of fun ruminations on pop-culture science. His new article is a guide to understanding the Super Bowl by way of physics. Allain tackles subjects such as collision force, gravity's effect on a field goal attempt, and (wearily) Deflategate/Ballghazi. For example, did you know that it's easier to kick a field goal in Denver due to the rarified Mile High air? Physics!

Read more at Wired.

Photo credit: Ron Foster Sharif / Shutterstock

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