By: Tara DeGeorges at 02:06 pm
Until recently, there were only two things I enjoyed about watching the Super Bowl – one, the commercials and two, the copious amount of salty snack food available at any respectable Super Bowl party.
This week, while scoping out content for the Connect a Million Minds Facebook page, I stumbled across Neil deGrasse Tyson’s radio segment on “The Physics of Football” and realized the third thing I like about watching the Super Bowl — science. Behind every tackle, pass and touchdown, there are physics principles at work. While I’m no football fanatic, I can appreciate the science of the game.
Side note: Tyson is a Geek God, the nerd equivalent of [insert name of football hero here]. In addition to being an astrophysicist (because that’s so easy), Tyson is Director of the Hayden Planetarium, host of Star Talk Radio and TV show Nova ScienceNow and a best-selling author. He’s also the man that killed Pluto.
Joining Tyson to discuss how universal laws of motion come into play on the gridiron were New York Giants linebackers Chase Blackburn and Jonathan Goff and tight end Travis Beckum. Rounding out the ratio of jocks to geeks were comedian Chuck Nice and Tyson’s astrophysicist colleague Charles Liu, who offered up “geeked-out calculations of what goes on in football.”
Over the hour, the players discussed how football is part instinct, part Physics 101. I managed to pick up a few nuggets of sport science wisdom to get me through Sunday:
1) The “low man” always wins. When it comes to tackling, the player that positions his half under his opponent’s half has the advantage. The lower you go, the more mass there is above you, the more leverage you get. The stars align for a serious smack-down.
2) It’s better to tackle a tall guy than a short guy. The center of mass on shorter men is lower, which makes them less likely to get knocked over. So, while the player that’s 6’5, 241 might look intimidating, he’s prime for the topple. It’s the squat fellow you have to worry about.
3) The average rushing lineman runs at a rate of 30 feet per second. The average human reaction time is two tenths of a second. All you need to know here is if you see something moving that fast, duck.
This Sunday, before you huddle up to the TV — Doritos and beer cozy in tow — take a minute to think about how energy, force, motion and matter come into play during the big game. And make sure you watch it in HD.
Learn more about Connect a Million Minds, Time Warner Cable’s five-year, $100 million community initiative to connect kids to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities and careers.