I’m going to throw a name at you, and I want you to guess who it is and how his work effects all of our lives. The man in question is Hienrich Gustav Magnus and was a German physicist that came up with a very interesting theory that a lot of people still put into motion today. The “Magnus Effect” as it is known, is a phenomenon that is associated with spinning objects such as balls and cylinders….. You still with me? Alright, let’s see how the effect affects us.
We all know how spin can affect the trajectory of a ball. When you play golf for instance spin is a crucial factor in where the ball is going to land. We have all had awful tee-shots where we have sliced the ball and it has headed off into the rough never to be seen again, but why did it happen? Apparently the answer is very simple. When you hit the ball you put an extreme amount of spin onto it creating a massive amount of drag on the leading edge of the ball, this in-turn places the ball on a course that you had no intention of taking, and therefore it was gone forever. Now that may sound all very simple, but the truth is that it was just incredibly BAD SHOT.
The Magnus Theory is used by many professional sportsmen and women. Think of sports like baseball, where the pitcher delivers the ball to the batter not only at speed, but also curved, how do they do it? Simple, the Magnus theory is put into effect. Tennis is another prime example of how this theory is used, as is cricket, a game that not too many in the US are familiar with, but a game where spin on the ball is the most important part of the bowlers armoury.
I am sure you are familiar with the movie “Bend it Like Beckham” where our hero can make a soccer ball curve over incredible distances, maybe this movie should have been called “Bend It Like Magnus”. There are even sail boats now that use the same theory, instead of regular sails they employ rotating cylinders to change the airflow around the vessel therefore propelling them forward. It is an amazing piece of science that we all take for granted.
Click on the link below to see just how the theory can effect a falling basketball. A team of students are visiting a huge dam in Tasmania, Australia’s southernmost state, to test just how the Magnus effect will affect the path of the falling ball. It will amaze you how such a simple theory can make such a huge difference in all of our lives, even when we aren’t aware of it. Click and learn.