An evidence-based look at a football scandal?

footballIf you pay any attention to sports, you have likely heard about the football scandal that erupted last year when the Indianapolis Colts accused the New England Patriots of deflating footballs to give their quarterback, Tom Brady, an unfair advantage.

To recap: The National Football League has rules about the air pressure in game balls. Brady likes his footballs on the softer side of the NFL’s allowable range because it makes them easier to grip. But at halftime during a game last year, the referees found the Patriot’s balls were below the NFL’s lower limit. As a result, there have been lawsuits against Brady, a hefty fine to the team’s owner, and the Patriots were forced to give up two draft picks.

But now scientists are asking, could the lower pressure in the balls have been caused by the laws of physics?

The New York Times published an article on the scandal this week that addresses the question. The article delves into the Ideal Gas Law, which explains how gases react to certain conditions, such as changes in temperature.

The story is an interesting, evidence-based take on a hot issue for the NFL, and certainly worth a read if you’re interested in the game or the politics of football.  We won ‘t explain the science in detail here, but suffice to say that it is possible — even likely — that the pressure in the footballs dropped naturally due to the weather on game day.

For a more in-depth look at the science, John Leonard, a robotics professor at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, posted a lecture that explains the physics behind the deflation scandal.

While the Patriots lost their championship game last week, I’m sure the NFL referees will still pay extra attention to the pressure of the footballs in the upcoming Super Bowl game!

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