The aerodynamics of the beautiful game
Author(s)Bush, John W. M.
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We consider the aerodynamics of football, specifically, the interaction between a ball in flight and the ambient air. Doing so allows one to account for the characteristic range and trajectories of balls in flight, as well as their anomalous deflections as may be induced by striking the ball either with or without spin. The dynamics of viscous boundary layers is briefly reviewed, its critical importance on the ball trajectories highlighted. The Magnus effect responsible for the anomalous curvature of spinning balls is seen to depend critically on the surface roughness of the ball, the sign of the Magnus force reversing for smooth balls. The origins of the fluttering of balls struck with nearly no spin is also discussed. Particular attention is given to categorizing and providing aerodynamic rationale for the various free kick styles.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mathematics
Les Editions de l’Ecole Polytechnique
Bush, J.W.M., The aerodynamics of the beautiful game, 2013. In Sports Physics, Ed. C. Clanet, Les Editions de l’Ecole Polytechnique, pp. 171-192.
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