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posted by martyb on Sunday February 01 2015, @03:50AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the shrunken-balls dept.

While the New England Patriots have absorbed a beating in the press, with many scientists concluding that only the surreptitious hiss of air being released from their footballs could explain the loss of pressure making them easier to handle, James Glanz reports at the NYT that the first detailed, experimental data has concluded that most or all of the deflation could be explained by environmental effects.

[The NFL is investigating whether the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs during their victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday's rain-soaked AFC Championship Game.]

“This analysis looks solid to me,” says Max Tegmark, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who reviewed the paper. “To me, their measurements mean that there’s no evidence of foul play.” Some academic and research physicists now concede that they made a crucial error in their initial calculations, using an equation called the ideal gas law. But applying the equation to real situations can be surprisingly deceptive. When a gauge indicates that the ball contains 12.5 p.s.i. — the minimum allowed by the N.F.L. — the actual pressure is more than twice that amount because the surrounding pressure of the atmosphere must be considered. This roughly doubles how much a dip in temperature can lower the pressure. “I stand corrected,” says Tegman, “It’s pretty funny that the ideal gas law is making headlines."

Thomas Healy measured the pressure drop in 12 footballs when they were moved from a room at 75 degrees to one at 50 degrees (the approximate temperature on the field in the Colts game). In the experiment, the deflation of the footballs was close to the larger, correctly calculated value. When Healy moistened the balls to mimic the effects of the rainy weather that day, the pressure dropped even further, close to the deflation of 2 pounds per square inch that the N.F.L. is believed to have found. Healy, who is from the Boston area, conceded that he would be rooting for the Patriots — whether he gets tickets or not — but says engineers who were not Patriots fans had helped with the experiments. Healy says his interest was just in the science. “It’s bringing science to a really public light, especially when everybody is getting interested in the Super Bowl."

Non-USA readers may wish to refer to our earlier story about the Super Bowl which explains some of the terminology and background on the game.

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Ads People Actually Look Forward to Seeing 33 comments

Go to nearly any major site on the web and you are bombarded with advertisements. Like many other people I know, I use browser plugins like AdBlock to try and remove them from my browsing experience.

But, for one time each year, there is an event in the USA where I actually tune in as much to see the advertisements as to see the event itself. I'm talking about the Super Bowl where we find out who wins the National Football League (NFL) championship. This year's game, Super Bowl XLIX, pits the New England Patriots versus the Seattle Seahawks and is scheduled for Sunday, February 1 at 6:30 PM EST.

With such a large viewing audience and such large sums spent to acquire a spot during the game, advertisers go out of their way to try and make ads that are actually interesting and memorable. Some have strained the limits of technology to pull them off.

If I were to mention nothing but net, you'd probably know I was referring to a series of ads pitting Larry Bird against Michael Jordan going one-on-one on increasingly challenging and then outlandish basketball shots, the winner to get a McDonald's Big Mac.

So, with the big game soon to be upon us, I ask: What are your most memorable Super Bowl ads? What's the biggest flop? Some advertisers have "leaked" copies of commercials on-line before the big show. Where did you find them? What's your favorite so far?

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @04:44AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @04:44AM (#139978)

    If this explanation turns out to be the case, then its just pure luck that it happens to superficially resemble the bullshit that the coach was spreading in that press conference.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by davester666 on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:54PM

      by davester666 (155) on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:54PM (#140093)

      or, the patriots intentionally inflated the balls in a heated room, then taking them out to the field, knowing that the pressure would drop in this way.

      now I presume the NFL will begin testing the balls before gametime and at halftime on the field, with the balls at field temperature.

  • (Score: 2) by SlimmPickens on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:18AM

    by SlimmPickens (1056) on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:18AM (#139984)

    Ideal gas law requires absolute values, physicist uses gauge pressure, football.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by frojack on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:25AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:25AM (#139986) Journal

      Ideal gas law requires absolute values, physicist uses gauge pressure, football.

      Shorter Version: Colts' Footballs defy theory.

      Drawing board re-engaged.

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:18AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:18AM (#139992)

        Subject Matter Expert only academically competent. Video at 11.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by GungnirSniper on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:24AM

    by GungnirSniper (1671) on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:24AM (#139985) Journal

    The combination of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady is one of the best tandems in American football today. Their success together is greater than 21 (of 32) teams total. [twitter.com] So fans of losing teams love to hate the Patriots on that fact alone. For Colts fans, who had just watched their team vanquished the feared Broncos the week prior, the loss to the Patriots stung. Nevermind that the Patriots scored more points after the balls were properly inflated than they had with the under-pressure balls.

    Belichick is a disciplined, cunning coach and will find and seemingly use any rule loophole to get ahead. That's what good coaches do. Had he not been previously fined for a prior videotaping scandal [wikipedia.org] and had controversial calls go his way [wikipedia.org] it would not have drawn nearly as much interest. Even in their prior win, the legal play selection was called a clear deception by the losing coach. [boston.com]

    Even the coach of the only perfect season, Don Shula, has called Bill Beli-cheat. So the clearest thing is the strong butthurt about the Patriots' success.

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:27AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:27AM (#139987) Journal

      And don't forget just how long this has probably been going on [slate.com].

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    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Squidious on Sunday February 01 2015, @03:12PM

      by Squidious (4327) on Sunday February 01 2015, @03:12PM (#140059)

      For us Eagles fans the butt-hurt will never die. In Super Bowl XXXIX Belichick dialed up a screen pass every time Johnson called for a corner blitz. Numerous blitz packages were the key to the Eagles defense. After the game and they had Jeremiah Trotter on the radio saying it was unreal, "It was like they knew what we were doing on defense". This was a couple years before they got caught with the videotaping. It was against the official rules, thus it was no "loophole". That being said, I would love to have either Brady or Belichick on my team but without the BS.

      --
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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Ryuugami on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:29AM

    by Ryuugami (2925) on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:29AM (#139988)

    From TFA:

    In a usually obscure profession that has received extraordinary attention during the controversy, some academic and research physicists ...

    Huh. Physics is "obscure"? That's a new one. I mean, it's not like the entire modern civilization is built on it, right? Good thing that the Super Bowl, which, I'm sure, is a world-level event watched by the entire globe, put the poor little physics in the spotlight for a few hours. Truly, we are blessed. /s

    I know that physics is not exactly mainstream, but I'd still put it a few levels above that band that a total of 500 people know about. I'm guessing that the NYT definition of "obscure" is something along the lines of "doesn't have a dedicated section in NYT".

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:32AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:32AM (#139997)

      It is obscure. Its that thing that people study for a class or two and then never think about again. Studying Physics as a career is only slightly more obscure and out of touch as studying philosophy or literature as a career.

      • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:55AM

        by aristarchus (2645) on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:55AM (#140000) Journal

        Studying Physics as a career is only slightly more obscure and out of touch as studying philosophy or literature as a career.

        Whoa there, buddy! Some of us here on SN actually are philosophers, professionally. Not so sure about the literary people, given the general level of literacy, spelling, and understanding of nuance, inuendo, and irony. And sarcasm. But in any case, in this case we see how such obscure pursuits actually have application in the most important activities of American Society, throwing a pigskin. I wonder where all those football players I knew in high school are now. Actually, I don't. (And back in character, of course there was no such thing as American Football on Samos in the Third Century B.C., so this is not really a question, but we did have our analogs: Tong throwers, guys always playing with their discus, javelin throwers trying to stay out of the actual army. Amazing how some things never change. )

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        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by umafuckitt on Sunday February 01 2015, @10:37AM

          by umafuckitt (20) on Sunday February 01 2015, @10:37AM (#140012)

          Saying a profession is "obscure" doesn't have to mean it isn't important, it can also mean that it's not well understood. I didn't see anyone claiming physics wasn't important. I reckon Average Dude doesn't personally know a single professional physicist and would consider meeting one at a party to be pretty unusual. I'm a biologist and I met up with old school friends last week. They all work for companies doing mid-level management stuff and they weren't very interested in each other's jobs but they did seem genuinely curious about mine. So I would say, yes, I appear to have an unusualy (possibly obscure) profession.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @08:52PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @08:52PM (#140115)

            Thanks for understanding my point. It was rather surprising to see someone defending philosophy as a profession while not noticing the logical form and philosophical language.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02 2015, @12:53AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02 2015, @12:53AM (#140157)

              But your point is obscure and "out of touch", which is not enough to make it philosophical.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02 2015, @01:42AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02 2015, @01:42AM (#140169)

                You appear to be ignorant of what you claim knowledge of.

                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02 2015, @04:20AM

                  by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02 2015, @04:20AM (#140204)

                  Burma shave.

          • (Score: 2) by isostatic on Monday February 02 2015, @01:07PM

            by isostatic (365) on Monday February 02 2015, @01:07PM (#140277) Journal

            I reckon Average Dude doesn't personally know a single professional physicist and would consider meeting one at a party to be pretty unusual.

            I doubt the average dude would personally know a single professional (american) footballer and would consider meeting one at a party to be pretty unusual (there's 1,696 in the NFL).

            I wouldn't suggest that football was "obscure".

            In fact this page [ncaa.org] suggests that 1,696 new professional sportsmen are created each year, of which 23% are in the NFL (this is just the big popular US team games). Extrapolating that to the number in the NFL reaches a total of about 7,500 professional sportsmen, 15% of the number of professional physicists.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02 2015, @02:24AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02 2015, @02:24AM (#140179)

      Civilization is primarily built upon engineering knowledge, not physics. Even in physics, there was a golden age, and now there is mostly new experiments whenever made practicable by engineering advances.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by aristarchus on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:24AM

    by aristarchus (2645) on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:24AM (#139994) Journal

    As George Costanza once said: "There was shrinkage!"

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    Runaway: Mentally Unfit!
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Refugee from beyond on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:49AM

    by Refugee from beyond (2699) on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:49AM (#139998)

    ℃ ℉ K Which one? :}

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    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by SlimmPickens on Sunday February 01 2015, @09:05AM

      by SlimmPickens (1056) on Sunday February 01 2015, @09:05AM (#140005)

      TFA is using F, the equation requires K

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @08:55PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @08:55PM (#140116)

        Kelvin isn't a scale of degrees anyway. It is absolute.

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @01:22PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @01:22PM (#140036)

      ℃ ℉ K Which one?

      All three ... because I believe it's spelled KFC ;-)

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:54AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:54AM (#139999)

    P1/P2 = T1/T2

    Since these are ratios, units don't really matter for pressure (multiples), but temperatures must be in kelvin due to additive offeset. So 75F = 297K. 50F = 283K

    283/297 = 95.2%.

    1 atm = 14.7psi so initial inflation is 12.5+14.7 = 27.2 psi.

    P1 = 95.2%*P2 =0.952*(27.2) = 25.9 psi

    so cooled, you have 25.9 - 14.7 = 11.2 psi

    The thing is, if you then heat the ball up again to room temperature, the pressure goes back up. Don't they measure the ball pressure back inside the measuring room, or whatever they call it? Also, if you handle the ball with warm hands, its temperature goes up too. So what's the dillio? The officials never knew how to measure ball pressure? Haven't they discovered pressure drop when it gets real cold? Like -20C (or 0F) ? The pressure then drops from 12.5 psi to 8.5 psi, which should be noticed even if you don't measure it. In reality pressure drops even more because air has water content which kind of has issues with ideal gas laws :)

    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Sunday February 01 2015, @12:30PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 01 2015, @12:30PM (#140022)

      Thanks AC.

      What I expected the engineer to do was squeeze the football in a vise with a force cell to replicate the force of a football player high on adrenaline and 'roids and report the difference... if any. That seems to be what really matters in the end.

      Or I'd like to see a statistician run a well designed experiment using an array of secretly randomly inflated balls and a HS football team doing an analysis of end results.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:09PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:09PM (#140084)

      Haven't they...

      No. They never specified temperature. Only Pressure. They never recorded pregame pressures. They don't measure the temperature of the air in the room where they check pressures. They certianly have no idea about the temperature of the air inside the football. Theyve never rechecked pressures at half time.

      The most important bit: Even when they have checked some of these things, they never, ever, record the results.

      Because games are played in open air and in real weather, at least one game per week probably featured balls that were out of spec. I guess there's been a lot of cheating?

      Now I have no idea about the pressures in the Colts game. I do know that the balls used by the Colts were transported from BOS to Foxborough in the cargo area of a bus... and that the air inside those was probably closer to game temp when measured. I know that the assistant equipment co-manager had to pee after he picked up the checked balls.

      Personally, I thnk the second JFK gunman came out of retirement to change the ball pressures when nobody was looking.

      What all of this points out to me is that nobody at the NFL has ever given any thought to air pressure and how it works before. Probably becaue they don't really care. and we know this because they don't take the measurement seriously and don't record the results.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @08:43AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @08:43AM (#140004)

    A sad statement on education.
    The ideal gas law is one of the first, if not the first physical law learnt at high school.
    It's pretty sad that people would want to obscure the idea that temperature and pressure linearly affect volume.
    I worry if people think that's too much mathematics.

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @09:24AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @09:24AM (#140006)

    They did not record the PSI in each football before the game (probably because they performed the "squeeze" test and did not use a gauge), nor did they record the temperature of the room before the game or at halftime (or how long the footballs were in that presumably warmer room and which balls were tested first). Since they don't know the starting PSI or temperature of each football they don't know how much of a drop in PSI occurred - if any.

    The Colts's footballs traveled by bus shortly before they were "tested" and would have been much closer to field temperature (and therefore halftime PSI) than the Patriot's footballs which were indoors the entire time before the initial "tests".

    No record of football PSI or temps, nor room temps. How can it be said with any certainty how much the PSI in the Patriot's footballs dropped, or that the Colts' footballs dropped at all?

    And one more thing: they've never tested the PSI at halftime or after a game before so they don't know if any drop in PSI occurs during the game even when the temperature is the same indoors and on the field.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @03:03PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @03:03PM (#140058)

    There is a more simple question here. Why were the Seattle footballs not found to be under inflated given they were in the same general conditions. We can go to a great degree of detail trying to explain pressure differences, but when one set of balls is found to be under inflated and another set is found to be within required range, something is wrong.

    • (Score: 1) by Squidious on Sunday February 01 2015, @03:17PM

      by Squidious (4327) on Sunday February 01 2015, @03:17PM (#140061)

      The conditions were different. When the Patriot's assistant took them into that single seat bathroom on the way to the field he quickly peter slapped one set.

      --
      The terrorists have won, game, set, match. They've scared the people into electing authoritarian regimes.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:33PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @06:33PM (#140086)

        That and the colts balls spent over a hour in the cargo bay of a bus shortly before being tested instead of in a warm equipment room.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Nuke on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:04PM

    by Nuke (3162) on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:04PM (#140075)

    New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs during their victory

    I am non-USA (but the earlier story link given for the likes of me is broken), but understand that "football" is a symmetrical game. Although obviously the ball must meet a standard, why is deflation an advantage to one side rather than the other? It is certainly an issue from time to time in asymetric games like cricket (and baseball too no doubt).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:49PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @05:49PM (#140081)

      Each team brings their own equipment. Including game balls. Even aside from psi, each team is allowed to prepare their footballs differently. It's debatable whether any advantage is obtained through this apart from the psychological. But if there is an advantage, you should not assume that it is symmetric.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @10:34PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01 2015, @10:34PM (#140135)

      Imagine a beach ball. Now imagine you are outside where it is cold and raining. If you have to handle the beach ball one-handed, which would be easier: a ball that is fully inflated, or a ball that is not inflated as much as it could be?

      As a previous reply also stated, an advantage in the football's condition is not equal for both sides, as it would be in basketball or volleyball, because each team supplies the footballs it will use when the team is on offense.

    • (Score: 2) by cmn32480 on Monday February 02 2015, @05:09PM

      by cmn32480 (443) <{cmn32480} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday February 02 2015, @05:09PM (#140337) Journal

      The short version is that a slightly deflated ball gives the quarterback (the guy throwing it), the receiver (the guy catching it), and the running back (the guy running with it after a hand off) an easier time holding on to the ball because they can squeeze it and get a better grip.

      The link below gives an interesting perspective on how it can play a role in the outcome of the game.

      http://www.sharpfootballanalysis.com/blog/2015/the-new-england-patriots-prevention-of-fumbles-is-nearly-impossible [sharpfootballanalysis.com]

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  • (Score: 2) by CoolHand on Monday February 02 2015, @01:41PM

    by CoolHand (438) on Monday February 02 2015, @01:41PM (#140283) Journal

    TFS states that a researcher at MIT was behind this.... Since MIT is based in Boston, I don't think I trust this research. There are many other fine engineering and science schools not located in Boston that would be far more impartial..

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