The developers for EA Sports’ video clip game Madden NFL 13 have 10 million present of password at your disposal, but when they require to record the movement of a football, they spend hrs in offices and also hallways and even ~ above the lawns outside, dropping, bouncing and also rolling footballs and also then poring end the results. “If i throw a spherical round in the air, ns know specifically where that going,” says software engineer Ryan Morse. “If you litter a soccer in the air and it lands, it have the right to go 30 different ways.”

“It’s an ext like 30 thousand. Or 30 billion,” adds physicist Toan Pham, the group’s technological director.

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The reason a football bounces for this reason strangely is because of that shape. A football is a prolate spheroid, and also it’s shame that method because that’s additionally the form of an inflated pig’s bladder, i beg your pardon is what the very first footballs to be made of. Football balls were also made that pig’s bladders, but as soon as modern technology permitted, those balls acquired rounder, which make them less complicated to kick. Yet as the football developed — and was built of cowhide and also rubber — it got even much more prolate, which do it easier to carry and easier come throw. And also much more difficult to pick up once it bounces top top the ground.

What this strange shaped sphere — and the physics behind the — lends to our national is randomness. The randomness of a bouncing round adds an aspect of uncertainty that coaches and also players try mightily come minimize. Indeed, the unpredictable bounce is an effective enough to identify which groups will be vying for a expedition to the supervisor Bowl and which groups will be watching the playoffs from the comfort of your couches.

Consider the fumble. Forcing a fumble is a skill that deserve to be practiced and learned. Some teams are better at it than others. But once the round hits the ground, every bets room off. It will elude the grasp of a future room of Famer and leap right into the arms of a below from the taxi squad. The subsequent readjust of possession — or lack thereof — native a fumble can an outcome in a swing that 14 clues or more. In a league where the typical margin of victory is 12 points, it’s no exaggeration to imply that one arbitrarily bounce have the right to determine the result of a game.

That’s what happened with DeSean Jackson’s game-winning punt return against the Giants in 2010. The sphere took a lucky bounce after the Eagles’ return male fumbled it, and also Jackson had the ability to scoop that up and also run for an improbable touchdown, a beat selected through NFL fans as the biggest of every

The arbitrarily bounce of the ball can even adjust the course of history.


In the 2012 regular season, the san Francisco 49ers recovered 23 the 37 fumbles for a 62% success rate. The Detroit Lions recovered only 9 the 24, or 37%. Their success at collecting bouncing footballs is just one of the reasons the 49ers went 11-4-1 and made it all the means to the at sight Bowl. As for the Lions, they finished up a disappointed 4-12.

Just as it does in the people of science, where it drives every little thing from development to cryptography, randomness is a powerful, disruptive force in football. Coaches and also players occupational all week come devise a game plan and also execute it come perfection. Then on Sunday afternoon, the pigskin access the turf and squirts this means instead of that. The fans erupt through frenzied cheers. Viewers at home watch the prompt replay in disbelief. And also the scoreboard tells a story that borders on the unbelievable.

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All due to the fact that of a bouncing ball.