Every time someone bounces a basketball, throws a pitch, or climbs up rocks, the science of physics has helped. Explore the science behind sports:
Surfers have to have excellent balance when riding huge waves or they would never be able to stand through a ride. Balance is created by constantly changing factors like width of stance—allowing for more control—and center of gravity. The center of gravity is the point around which the weight of an object is evenly distributed and it can be balanced. Our center of gravity, which is near the waist, can shift to help us keep our balance. Visitors have a chance to test their balance on NYSCI's surfboard, and there's no need to get wet. The board offers different options for a stance and an adjoining graphic explains why each stance is important.
The Bounce Challenge offers reinforcement of a key principle in physics: energy is never created or destroyed; it transfers from one object to another. When we bounce a ball, the surface of the ball bends, or deforms. For the ball to regain its normal shape it has to push back against the floor—and the floor also pushes back. This leads to the "bounce" of a ball. Softness and hardness of both surface and ball will impact the reaction and bounce. Visitors here can experiment with bouncing a ball on 4 distinct surfaces—wood floor, field turf, sand, and foam—and compare the results. Which one will bounce highest?
While it might not be Mount Everest, NYSCI offers visitors a chance to test their balance and strategy as they scale a real 8-foot climbing wall. Climbing is not all about who the strongest person is. While arm and leg strength play a part, physics is actually a climber's best friend. Understanding how to use their arms and legs as levers to smoothly shift their center of gravity—near their belly button—around helps conserve energy for long climbs. Where feet are positioned, where hands are positioned, and how far a climber is from the wall all impact how weight is distributed and how smoothly a climber moves.
The process of leaping might seem rather natural, but a complex set of factors play a significant role in the process of jumping off the ground. Here, visitors are challenged to jump higher and higher, with each leap measured for them by a computer. First, users jump with their arms at rest. Next they are invited to swing their arms, causing more force to be transferred downward to the ground as they get ready to leap. Finally, users can experiment with the results of bending their knees more or less to impact the force they use to push off the ground.
The Pitching Challenge offers visitors the chance to find out if they are ready to take on Major League hitters. Visitors have three different kinds of balls to throw: a baseball, a tennis ball, and a softball. Each ball offers a different speed and a different trajectory and spin as it moves. Spin is responsible for keeping the ball in the air as it rapidly changes the air pressure around it. A radar gun keeps track of the speed on each throw, giving visitors feedback to draw conclusions when they change pitching styles. While preparing to throw, visitors have a chance to read about the history, development, and manufacturing of baseballs and golf balls. The size, shape, and technology of these devices has been developed carefully over a long period of time to meet changing sporting needs.
Just like bikes and cars, wheelchairs come in many different forms to fit many different needs. Most normal wheelchairs are built to help people navigate around tight corners or through homes. But they do not allow for rapid top speeds. On the other hand, when athletes compete in wheelchair races, they use sleek, specialized chairs with 3 big wheels and a design to maximize the translation of arm thrust into wheel rotation. Engineers and doctors have spent much time studying the bones, muscles, and movements of many people to design both types of chairs. At NYSCI, visitors can test the difference between these two types of chairs by competing in a computer simulated race. The chairs each offer a different level of feedback to their users, demonstrating their different functions.
Visitors can take a break from the competitions and read about the role that spin plays on the movement and trajectory of different balls. The spin of a ball forces air around the ball to move, changing the air pressure and impacting its flight. For a football, spin helps the ball resist other forces, such as a gust of wind or rain falling on it. In golf, backspin helps the ball maintain a layer of air underneath of it, keeping the ball in longer.
Start your engines and go when the lights hit green! The Reaction Time Challenge offers visitors a chance to sit behind the wheel of a full size drag racer and measure their reactions in time. Professional racers know their success hinges on the difference of milliseconds during a race, and visitors get a chance to see that in action. Reaction is the time it takes a person to respond to a stimulus—like green light, but it is not just a matter of physical speed. Losing concentration can also lead to false starts or slow responses. There are three cars for visitors to try. Two of them are equipped with foot pedals. The third has a large button and is fully accessible for visitors in wheel chairs, or anybody that wants to compare foot versus hand speed.
When returning a 120 MPH serve in tennis, small changes in the position of a racket make a significant difference in the trajectory the ball will travel back over the net. Trajectory is the path an object moves through space based on a guiding force. Here, visitors have to shape the trajectory of a tennis ball fired from a machine to land in-bounds after going over a net. The height of the racquet and the angle it is held at are the user's tools for hitting the perfect shot.