How a Slate scientist changed the NBA forever.

The stadium scene.
Jan. 6 2005 7:01 PM

Foul Play

How a Slate scientist changed the NBA forever—or at least a week.

(Continued from Page 1)

An idea that would surely test the rules comes from David Whitney, the scientist who published the visual-motion study in Nature. Whitney suggests that it would be easy to create an improved version of the thunder stick that becomes more noticeable when waved in one direction. One such device might work by hanging LEDs inside a hollow tube with holes in it. When swung to the right, the LEDs would be visible through the holes, creating spots of light that would vanish when the stick went back to the left. As hundreds of fans shook the sticks wildly, the shooter would see something that looked like a flurry of snow drifting in one direction.

I'm sad to say that my success as a basketball scientist was short-lived. A mere three games into this bold new era, I got fired. "It failed miserably last night," Cuban e-mailed me the day after the Lakers game. "I think our early success was random." I can't help but wonder if the Mavericks are giving up too soon. Slate's photographer told me that the Hoop Troop's movements weren't even timed to the shooting of the basketball. If I'd been the guy leading the crowd, we would have done things right.

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Correction, Jan. 12, 2005: This piece originally stated that Paul Whitney does research on visual perception at the University of California-Irvine. In fact, he is at the University of California-Davis. Return  to the corrected sentence.

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