Q. What is the secret to spinning a basketball on your finger? – Jack, 8, New York
The Prof Says: The secret is momentum. That is how Joseph Odhiambo kept a ball spinning for a world record four hours and 15 minutes during the NBA All-Star Jam Session in Houston in 2006. “The bigger the momentum of something, the harder it is to stop it,” says Francisco Capristan, a NASA engineer whose Ph.D. research focused on the trajectories of rockets (though not the Houston Rockets).
(full article published in Sports Illustrated Kids, December 2015)
Q. How does being short help players like Martin St. Louis?
The Prof Says: As the players around him get bigger and bigger, the New York Rangers winger—a 16-year veteran and six-time All-Star who stands just 5’8″—keeps on thriving. Why?
In 2005, Niels Uth, a researcher at a university in Denmark, observed that relative muscle strength theoretically decreases as height increases. So long, thin muscles have a lower power-to-weight ratio than short and squat ones. Which means smaller skaters like St. Louis can accelerate more quickly.
(full article published in Sports Illustrated Kids, May 2015)
Q. Which is better, and aluminum bat or a wooden one? – Ashley, 12, New York
The Prof Says: You can hear the difference in bats from the bleachers: Crack (wood), ping (aluminum), thunk (composite).
Wooden bats are made from a solid piece of lumber, while non-wooden bats—aluminum and composite, which are made from a fabric of carbon fibers covered in epoxy resin—are hollow. This makes non-wooden bats not just lighter overall, but also heavier at the handle.
(full article published in Sports Illustrated Kids, April 2015)
Q. What chance does a goalkeeper have of saving a soccer penalty kick? – Bob, 12, New Jersey
The Prof Says: Not a very good one. In the 26 penalty shootouts that have decided men’s World Cup soccer gmes, only 49 out of 232 shots have been saved. When you consider the challenge for the goalkeeper, though, that is actually a pretty impressive stat. A full-sized goal offers shooters a target area of 192 square feet., and an average sized keeper takes up around 9.5 square feet of that.
If the keeper stood completely still, and the penalty kicker randomly shot at the goal, only five percent of those balls would be blocked.
(full article published in Sports Illustrated Kids, March 2015)
Got a question about the science of sports? Let our expert help you pump up your sports IQ
Q. Can a team’s jersey color help it win?
The Prof says: Back in the 19th century, Santa Claus used to wear red, green, or even blue, but red won out in the end. Red wins in sports, too. Take baseball for example. Out of all the color combinations, teams in red have won two of the last five World Series: the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox. The other three Series were won by the Giants, who wear orange — a mixture of red and yellow.
(full article published in Sports Illustrated Kids, December 2014)
When the game is on the line, you want a clutch performer on your side. Here’s what sets the coolest customers apart.
It’s the final inning. Your team is down by a run. The bases are loaded, but there are two outs. You stand at home plate, eyes locked on the mound, bat ready, waiting for the next pitch.
You’ve hit thousands of baseballs before. You know the routine. Get your stance right, your body balanced. Don’t grip the bat too tightly; stay loose. Keep your eye on the ball. Step forward, shift your weight, take a strong cut, and follow through.
But the last thing you want to do is think about any of that.
(full article published in Sports Illustrated Kids, October 2014)