Physics of Soccer

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What makes the ball curve: Soccer players can make the ball curve by applying a Force, kicking, to the ball that is not in the center of the ball itself. When the ball is struck on the side by a player the ball spins while it is moving forward. In the case of the picture below, the soccer ball was struck on the right side of the ball and is spinning counter-clockwise. What causes the ball to actually curve in the air is a difference in the pressures on either side of the soccer ball. On the left side of this soccer ball, the air is moving faster, than the right side, relative to the center of the ball. This causes a lower pressure to develop on the left side of the ball, while on the right side there is a higher pressure because the air flow is moving slower relative to the center of the ball. This difference in air pressure causes the ball to curve to the left during its flight path. This curve is known as the Magnus Effect after the physicist Gustav Magnus.

The shape of the soccer ball is…round! But in mathematical terms, the soccer ball is usually in the shape of an Archimedean Solid. This solid has 32 faces, 12 are pentagons and 20 are hexagons. On the Apollo 17 mission astronauts played soccer with a 200 pound moon rock. Just imagine playing any sport with something that heavy…ouch!



There are many different soccer balls in use today. Each company claims that theirs is the best one out there but in all reality soccer players only like to play with soccer balls that they are used to. In fact, the ball used for the World Cup in 2002 was supposed to be the best one ever made by Adidas but many of the players in the World Cup hated it because it was new and they weren’t used to it.


When asked the question: “If you dropped a soccer ball from a height of 3 meters and assumed that the ball bounced back up to half its previous height, how long would it take the ball to come to rest?” most people would answer never because it would be continuing to bounce forever, we just wouldn’t be able to tell. However, this statement is wrong.

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Using the equation D=1/2*g*t2 for the distance (D) traveled and g = 9.81 m/s2 we get that the infinite series of bounces turns into approximately 4.61 seconds before the ball comes to rest.

Soccer is one of the sports out there that really doesn't cost very much to play. All a person needs to play in a league is cleats, shin guards, and a team uniform. You might also want to pick up a soccer ball so you can practice on your own. The most important piece of equipment a player needs is their soccer cleats. Any cleats will do but there are different styles that can improve traction, ball control and comfort.

To improve soccer cleat technology the major companies employed the Field Robotics Center at Carnegie Mellon to build a robot that would be able to reproduce a human quality kick. This way shoe technology could be improved with less error and randomness that comes from human testing of shoes. The robot was able to repeat the exact same kick over and over again.

If one were to fill a soccer ball with hotter than room temperature air they would have to refill ball because once the air molecules have cooled down they won't be as excited and will lose pressure. This can be seen using the ideal gas law equation, PV = nRT . In the soccer ball, the volume (V), number of molecules (n), and the universal gas constant(R) are all constant. This allows us to set the initial pressure and temperature equal to the final pressure and temperature and get Pi/Ti=Pf/Tf . Now we have the hot initial temperature which gives us an initial pressure, so when the air cools to the final temperature (Tf) we see that the pressure decreases, because Tf decreases, and thus will require someone to refill the soccer ball so that it will be inflated properly.



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