Science of the Super Bowl: SciBowl2013!

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Feb. 3 2013 6:22 PM

Super Bowl Science 2013

Football
You'd be surprised how much science is in this simple truncated prolate spheroid inflated to twice Earth's surface atmospheric pressure and expected to travel along various ballistic trajectories.

Image credit: Cristiano Gatti.

Today is the Super Bowl, the closest thing America has to a national religion. I used to be a big football fan, but the past few years I haven’t been as interested—I know, it makes me a stereotypical geek, but what can you do?

What I can do is reinforce that stereotype. In 2011 and again in 2012, during the game I posted to Twitter science-based factoids related to the Super Bowl. I started it as a lark, to have some fun, but then last year I really put some effort into it, doing math and physics calculations about the game. That made it so much more fun I decided to do it again this year.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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The tweets go out every few minutes. If you’re reading this while the game is still going on, I will collect the tweets over the past quarter and update this post below (refresh this post at the end of each quarter to see them). When the final whistle blows and the game is over, I’ll have them all collected here for your future sciencey amusement. Where relevant I’ll add links to reference information, but the math itself would take up too much space to write out, so I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

SciBowl2013

First Quarter           

I like both cities: SF has the Ca Acad. of Sciences; Baltimore has (Hubble) Space Telescope Science Inst. #SciBowl2013

49 is an interesting number. It’s 7 squared. Both digits in 49 are also squares. #SciBowl2013 #49ers

49 squared = 2401. And 2 + 4 + 0 + 1 = 7. Which is the square root of 49. #SciBowl2013 #49ers

The genus of a raven is Corvus, which is also a constellation (usually referred to as a crow). #SciBowl2013

Baltimore was home to Edgar Allan Poe, who was the first to understand why the sky is dark at night. http://goo.gl/iqiVr  #SciBowl2013

The SuperDome is at a latitude of almost exactly 30 degrees north. #SciBowl2013

At the latitude of New Orleans, the Earth’s surface rotates at 900 mph. #SciBowl2013

Second Quarter

The pressure inside a football is 27.5 PSI, or just under twice what you’re experiencing right now from the Earth’s air. #SciBowl2013

A football has about 10 grams of air in it—1/3 of an ounce. Uncompressed, that’s about 2 gallons of air. #SciBowl2013

Surface pressure on Venus is 90 times Earth’s. That would crush a fully inflated football. #SciBowl2013

Also, the temperature on Venus is 900F and it rains sulfuric acid, so really, the football never had a chance. #SciBowl2013

A fully inflated football converted completely into energy would detonate with a yield of 9 million tons of TNT. #SciBowl2013

Catching a football takes quick reflexes: for a good throw it moves through its own length in ~1/80th of a second. #SciBowl2013

SuperDome seats ~76,000. Total weight of ppl ~7000 tons. That’s less than two footballs full of white dwarf material. #SciBowl2013

Halftime

Halftime for the Earth was 2.27 billion years ago. #SciBowl2013

If Beyoncé (born 9/4/81) had been born on Saturn, she would’ve just celebrated her first birthday. http://goo.gl/9QDw #SciBowl2013

On Venus she’d be 51. #SciBowl2013

Later this week, Beyoncé can celebrate her 28,000th Jupiter day. #SciBowl2013

If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it. http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/1998/08/image/b/ #SciBowl2013

During halftime, more than 10 million tons of Antarctic ice melted. #SciBowl2013 http://goo.gl/HZ4iA

Third Quarter

An average NFL player would weigh less than 100 pounds on Mars. #SciBowl2013

[After power went out...]

A big solar storm can cause a surge that can overload the power grid and cause blackouts. Nearby supernova & GRB, too. #SciBowl2013

Also nearby magnetar flare, asteroid impact, and overly-blown halftime shows. #SciBowl2013

An average football player running at 20 mph has 20 times the momentum of a 50 calibre rifle bullet in flight. #SciBowl2013

If you replaced the grass on the field with human hair, you would need 450 billion shafts of them to cover it. #SciBowl2013

You’d only need about 3 million ping pong balls, however. #SciBowl2013

An average human brain weighs about 3.3 times as much as a football. #SciBowl2013

An average football is 3.7 times the volume of a human brain. #SciBowl2013

An average human brain is therefore more than 12 times denser than a football. #SciBowl2013

Fourth Quarter

A perfectly thrown football will take about 4-5 seconds to cross the length of a football field. #SciBowl2013

A typical meteor can cross a football field in 0.0025 seconds. That’s ~1800 times faster than a football. #SciBowl2013

During the 4 hour game, the Sun will have converted about 64 billion tons of matter into energy. #SciBowl2013

That’s enough energy to supply the entire world’s needs for 11 billion years. #SciBowl2013 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumption

It’s also the equivalent of detonating more than 1 quadrillion (10^15) one-megaton nukes. #SciBowl2013

The amount of energy your body burned during the game was equivalent to about 2000 firecrackers. #SciBowl2013

Superbowl: 48 minutes of ads & 100 million viewers = 9000 man years of commercial watching. #SciBowl2013

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