Washington: As the 2010 FIFA World Cup fever grips the entire world, an American scientist is helping footie fans understand the science of soccer.
In an article appearing in the magazine Physics Today this month, John Eric Goff explains how the world``s greatest players are able to make a soccer ball do things that would seem to defy the forces of nature.
Goff``s article looks at the ball``s changing design and how its surface roughness and asymmetric air forces contribute to its path once it leaves a player``s foot.
His analysis leads to an understanding of how reduced air density in games played at higher altitudes - like those in South Africa - can contribute to some of the jaw-dropping ball trajectories already seen in some of this year``s matches.
"The ball is moving a little faster than what some of the players are used to," said Goff, who is a professor of physics at Lynchburg College in Virginia and an expert in sports science.
For Goff, soccer is a sport that offers more than non-stop action - it is a living laboratory where physics equations are continuously expressed.
On the fields of worldwide competition, the balls manoeuvre according to complicated formulae, he says, but these can be explained in terms the average viewer can easily understand.
And the outcomes of miraculous plays can be explained simply in terms of the underlying physics.