Putting a spin on a ball before launching it into the air causes it to move differently — not exactly breaking news for anyone who’s played basketball, soccer, golf, or tennis. But do you know exactly why this happens?
As it turns out, we’ve known the cause behind this phenomenon since at least 1852, when German scientist Heinrich Gustav Magnus explained the mechanics of what is now called the Magnus effect. But just because scientists have known about it for decades, doesn’t mean that the rest of us understand what’s going on.
A few friends decided to visit a 415-feet-high dam in Tasmania. They dropped a ball off the top to see where it would land. Though it strayed a little bit because of the wind, it landed in essentially the same spot where it was dropped.
In the next experiment, the guys dropped the ball with a little spin. This caused it to veer drastically off-course… landing in a nearby lake!
The Magnus effect occurs when a spinning ball, cylinder, or similarly shaped object curves away from its intended path because of changes in airflow. In the case of the basketball, its intended path was straight down, but it veered off because of the spin.
“As the basketball picks up speed, air on the front side of the ball is going in the same direction as its spin,” the narrator explains. “And therefore, it gets dragged along with the ball and deflected back.”
The video has been viewed by more than 51 million people since it was posted back in 2015, and everyone is loving how easy to understand the concept and how cool the demonstration was.
Watch the video below to learn more about this awesome physics phenomenon and share it with a friend.
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