The Great DeflateGate Controversy
This year’s Super Bowl will be, as of this writing, tomorrow, late afternoon, between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. Both teams have a 14-4 record for the season, so it should be a good game. Also, the game will be held in a stadium located in an arid and warm region of the country, in a stadium with a covered roof. So, there is no chance of a cloudy with a chance of deflated-balls scenario.
You have probably heard that an accusation has been made against the New England Patriots regarding their balls. It has been claimed that they intentionally deflated their balls during certain, perhaps many, games, in order that players be able to hold on to said balls during play. There is some evidence that this is true. In particular, the New England Patriots seem to have an exceptionally good record playing with balls that are wet and/or chilly — exceeding betting spreads which are, essentially, complex and generally accurate models — 80% of the time.
But now, a New England based scientist who has disclosed, as is proper, his fanship of the New England Patriots, has released a study suggesting that the Patriot’s balls may have deflated naturally, after they were moved from a warm environment to the colder environment of the playing field.
Thomas Healy, former college punter and founder of HeadSmart Labs, a sports safety think tank, has carried out experiments to test this hypothesis. Here is the scientist, Healy, pointing to the relevant calculations:
And here is Healy explaining his research on the behavior of foot balls:
No Emerging Consensus on Deflate Gate
The thing I found most interesting about ball-gate, which is discussed in a New York Times piece on Healy’s research, is that several physicists had goofed up their application of the famous “Inert Gas Law” in making public assertions that the New England Patriots must have ensmallened their balls during the game in question. According to the New York Times, “Other evidence is also turning the Patriots’ way. In a usually obscure profession that has received extraordinary attention during the controversy, some academic and research physicists now concede that they made a crucial error in their initial calculations, using an equation called the ideal gas law. When that error is corrected, the amount of deflation predicted in moving from room temperature to a 50-degree field is roughly doubled.”
Timothy Gay, who wrote “The Physics of Football,” which included a forward by Patriot’s Coach Bill Belichick, also chimed in. He notes that deflated balls would certainly provide an advantage, but he agrees with Healy’s results, and has confirmed them with his own calculations.
Bill Nye has also entered the fray, but he disagrees with Healy. Nye is backed up by a major web site known as “Funny or Die.” From a piece in Salon,
“Funny or Die” and Nye actually demonstrate[s] what would happen if balls went from 80 degrees Fahrenheit to 51 degrees Fahrenheit for such a short amount of time. Most importantly, Nye reminds us that man-made climate change is real. And unlike “deflate-gate” it is, as Nye says, “something about which you should give a fuck.”
Here is Nye’s video:
Who will win the Deflate Gate Debate?
So, who are you going to go with? An industry funded scientist and Patriots fan with a fancy thermometer, or an independent science communicator with a better video who is a Seahawks fan? Are you going to accept the experimental evidence (and remember, we have two experiments, one formal and one informal, showing opposite results) or the paleo-data (the New England Patriot’s record playing with damp and chilly balls)?
I’m thinking the jury is still out. But Bill Nye is certainly right about one thing. Climate change is real, and something to truly give a fuck about.
When is the Super Bowl on?
Sunday, February 1st, at 5:30 Central Time. It should be a good game, but don’t get your hopes up. You wouldn’t want to be deflated.