Physics laws lead to super soccer plays

July 6, 2010 at 2:36 PM

LYNCHBURG, Va., July 6 (UPI) -- Science helps explain how the world's soccer players playing in the World Cup can make a soccer ball do things that don't seem natural, a U.S. scientist said.

U.S. scientist John Eric Goff, in an article published in the July issue of Physics Today, looked at the ball's design and how its surface roughness and asymmetric air forces help determine its path once it leaves a player's foot, the American Institute of Physics said in a release.

His analysis indicated reduced air density in games played at higher altitudes -- such as those in South Africa -- can contribute to some of the eye-popping ball trajectories already seen in some of this year's World Cup matches.

"The ball is moving a little faster than what some of the players are used to," said Goff, a physics professor at Lynchburg College in Virginia and an expert in sports science.

Goff said soccer is more than a sport -- it is a living lab where physics equations are constantly expressed.

Goff's recently published book, "Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports," explores the scientific mechanisms behind some of the greatest moments in sports history, including quarterback Doug Flutie's "Hail Mary" touchdown pass from the Boston College 22 yard line that led to a BC victory over the University of Miami.

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