The Nano-eye Soccer Analyst in the Field of Science
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- Registration Date : 2014-10-02
“Although soccer is a simple sport in which 22 players actively run around with a ball in order to score, there is profound scientific theory embedded within the sport.”
In late May, prior to the opening ceremony of the 2014 Brazil World Cup, Professor In-Ho Lee, in a research laboratory at KRISS, explained the perspective in which a scientist views soccer. He stated that within the stable infrastructure of the material used to create the soccer ball exists principles of chemistry, and within the design and function of the ball lie principles of physics.
The academic foundation of the so-called soccer physicist is computational physics. At the Nano Material Evaluation Center at KRISS, research related to the discovery of physical characteristics of nano materials is currently being conducted through computer simulation.
Professor Lee became well-known as a soccer professional representing science and technology around the time of the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup when he published an article entitled, “Soccer and Physics,” for an advertisement magazine of a physics society. Since then, during every World Cup season, an analysis, in terms of physics, is conducted to analyze the principles underlying soccer through computer simulations.
Of course this is not simply for the love of fame or enjoyment, but by utilizing the popular sport of soccer as a medium, public awareness and familiarity of science and technology are enhanced.
Professor Lee states that, different from popular belief, there is a close relationship between soccer and standards. FIFA defines the specifications for the field and ball; in other words, standards exist and even the rules of the game are a type of standard.
“These types of standards are important in a game of soccer because it serves as a foundation for all teams and players to play under the same conditions.”
As an example, the official soccer ball of the World Cup must abide by strict standards regarding the material used, size, weight, and air pressure of the ball. The material must be leather or a material authorized by FIFA, and the circumference and weight must be 68~70 cm and 410~450 grams, respectively.
The air pressure is regulated using sea level standards and must be 0.6~1.1 pressure (600~1,100g/㎠). Moreover, in order to receive the mark of the official ball regulation tests in seven categories must also be passed, including water resistance, durability, elasticity, repulsive power, and rotational force.
“The official ball is stitched about 1620 times. Also, because the sewing of the external shell of the ball is done completely by hand, even skilled technicians can only complete three balls in eight hours. It is indeed a piece of work.”
Professor Lee explains that in the case of Brazuca, the official ball of the Brazil World Cup, six pieces of polyurethane are sewn together to create the external shell, so that the weight and structure of the ball will remain almost identical even in the case of rain. Furthermore, he states that because the air inlet is made of latex, irregular bouncing of the ball has decreased.
“I am looking forward to seeing a ball produced by a domestic company to be used as the official ball at the World Cup. To do so, standards science, as well as other fields of science and technology, must developed. This comes to show the truth in the phrase, ‘A nation that is a powerhouse in sports is also a powerhouse in science and technology.’
The importance of standards is no different in a soccer field. There are detailed specifications for the size and range of the field, center circle, goal line, penalty area, penalty arc, etc.
“All the things are the result of reflecting scientific calculations of the optimum points when players are playing a game.”
The most scientific component in soccer is the in-flight trajectory of the soccer ball when the ball is kicked. According to Professor Lee, each and every kick that transforms soccer into an art form, such as the banana kick, UFO, floater, etc., deeply imbeds principles of physics.
“Let’s take the banana kick, a kick used by many players when kicking a free kick, as an example. Here, the Magnus Effect is applied. This effect, a principle of physics, was discovered in 1852 by Gustav Magnus, a German Physicist, while researching the ballistics of a bomb. The secret lies in the rotating ball and friction with the air.
When the kicker shoots while adding rotation to the ball, one side will receive air resistance, which increases pressure. This causes the air pressure of the opposite side to decrease, causing the ball to curve towards the direction of lesser pressure.”
In relation to this, it is said that if the speed of the ball exceeds 100km, the Magnus Effect does not apply. In this case, the ball will fly straight rather than curve.
“In the case of world class players that boast a strong kick, the point at which the ball s to curve after decelerating below 100km is 9.15m. This is why the defense must be at least 9.15 meters away from the ball when a free kick is given. Even if a player may be hit by the ball, this distance symbolizes the minimum distance to ensure player safety.”
Professor Lee predicts that a soccer ball with dimples on the surface, like a golf ball, could appear. The presence of many dimples on the surface creates a current around the ball, increasing the distance the ball travels, adding to the destructive power of mid-range shots, and allowing for a more offense-oriented style of soccer.
“People shake their heads when science, in particular, physics, is discussed, but when soccer is used to explain physics, they show a keen interest and enjoy it more than any other story. Isn’t this what you would call a grassroots science culture?”