The American Physical Society published an article in January stating that on November 15 th, 1999, on ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, Timothy Gay, professor of physics at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, stated “Football is a manifestation of physics and it’s something people can relate to. It’s physics in action. My main hope is that somehow I’ll turn some kid onto physics or science in general.”(1) Mr. Gay could not have made a more correct statement. Football encompasses many qualities that are deeply seeded in the study of physics. These areas range from the building of the stadium to the wobbly “duck” thrown to a receiver at full speed to the sudden impact of two men running at each other full speed. Physics is found in every aspect of the game.
Before the game ever begins, there must be a place where it can be played. This place also requires a place for the spectators to watch the game. The structure that will accommodate the fans involves some of the basics of physics. Simply put, the structure must be able to fulfill two requirements. First it must be structurally sound. Second it must support the weight of the spectators. These are both overcome and answered by knowing about forces. The building must be able to withstand the forces exerted on it by the weather or possibly earthquakes as well as the force caused by the gravitational pull of the earth on the spectators. The textbook Physics: A World View (2) explains to us that the structure is exerting a force vertically upward equal to that of the gravity downward, causing the spectator to be able to stand still.
Throwing the football is not as simple as it looks. The beautiful spiral usually seen is the result of ma...
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...ir chance at least to the smaller players.
From the building of the stadium to the perfect pass to the air ballet created when a runner’s feet are knocked out from under him, physics is everywhere on the football field. There is no escaping it. Football provides a perfect opportunity for us to learn about physics and the laws that govern things around us every minute of every day.
1. American Physical Society. 2000. www.aps.com. 27 Apr. 2003 <http://www.aps.org/apsnews/0100/010004/html>.
2. Kirkpatrick, Larry D. and Wheeler, Gerald F. Fourth Edition Physics: A World View. Copyright 2001. Harcourt College Publishers.
3. Gundersen, P. Erik. The Handy Physics Answer Book. Copyright 1999. Visible Ink Press.
4. Freudenrich, Ph.D. Craig C. Howstuffworks.com. 26 Apr. 2003 <http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/physics-of-football.htm>.
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