Sports and games dominated by physics
Issue date: 2/20/04 Section: Sci-Tech
I believe that sports are a manifestation of our will to conquer over nature and ourselves. We love to learn new things, we love to make new things and we love to conquer opponents, which is amply proven by our bloody history of long wars. Sports are just a way of going to war without actually taking up arms.
Take a look at football, for instance. It's no different from Germany's push into Russia; each side gains and loses territory and tries to push hard into the enemy region. Here too we have brilliant generals and amazing weapons like great quarterbacks. I make it sound very simplistic, but that is what it is. The thrill and adrenaline rush associated with sports can only be matched in war. Hitting a home run is one of the greatest feelings a person can have; just ask anyone who has done so, and they will concur.
I will attempt to bring out how important physics and technology are to sports nowadays and how unconsciously our bodies are geared toward science when we try to improve our game. First, for baseball fans, curve balls have been and will remain the fantasy of every young baseball player. How does a curve ball work? It's basically like a cricket swing, where the ball forms a gradient while traveling through air, with pressure on one side and none on the other, pushing the ball in the direction of the pressure. When your coach asks you to hold the ball in such and such manner and release it in a prescribed way, he is exploiting physical laws without even knowing about them.
Media Credit: Bryson Durke Diamond Corporation
Most of you have played pool, snooker or some other variant of that game. Even if you did not know what momentum or an elastic collision is, you still used it when you tried to pocket a ball. When some wiseass tries to explain to a newbie how to cut the ball in a certain direction, he is basically trying to convey the idea that momentum will be conserved and because it is an elastic collision, the energy given to the cue will be conserved too. Funny, none of you ever thought of such things when you played the game. Science is not something which is to be found in books; it is everywhere; you use it all the time and still hate it.
For all you Eagles fans who practice throwing the ball and catching it, you are not even aware of the fact that you are inherently trying to hit an angle of incidence which has the least wobble; you are trying to hit an eigen-state at the moment of inertia. A football is an asymmetric body; it is not like a ball which is the same dimension in all directions. Thus it has certain favored directions which are quite complicated to calculate. But when you have that ball in your hand, you never think of all this heavy duty stuff; all you want to do is release it in such a way that your friend can catch it. So you throw it in a manner which you have practiced for a long time. This is actually your attempt to hit an eigen-state, that elusive state which will make sure the ball will not wobble, because if it does, your aim will not be so good.
Science is something which makes us better, not only through its action on inanimate objects, but on ourselves, too. We use it all the time; in fact, we are slaves to its serene beauty. It's such a good master that we don't even know it. That is, before you read this.
Pinkesh Patel is a senior majoring in physics.