March 04, 2007

Magnus Effect: Swerving the Ball

photo depicting Magnus effectTomorrow the festival of colors, Holi will be celebrated all over India with zeal and enthusiasm. Another festive occasion is about to begin in the Caribbean Islands, exactly 11 days hence. The cricket world cup will begin. Cricket is played by few countries across the world, most of them commonwealth nations. Though I was never a sports enthusiast (and I still not am), I do enjoy seeing the game sometimes. This time Australia is my favorite, but team India is not far behind.

I will miss Shoaib Akhtar, the Pakistani speedstar, also known as the Rawalpindi express; Brett Lee, the pacer from 'down under', i.e. Australia; Oram, the Kiwi (New Zealand) allrounder and many a great faces. Oram, of NZ, suffered an injury to his finger, for which he has been declared unfit for the game. But such is his passion for the game, that he prefers amputation of his finger, if that could mean his inclusion in the team. He prefers to play than to sit idle, even if it comes at the cost of his finger!

Some pacers can swing the ball like sultans (Sultans of swing). The swings (horizontal arcs, as you can see in the picture) observed in the trajectory of the cricket ball (also seen in table tennis, tennis, footballs etc.) is a really interesting phenomenon to me. It is not like lopping, which can be explained in terms of gravity, but this horizontal swing seems logic defying. How can an object change its trajectory once it has been ejected? No external force, other than friction and gravity seems to be acting, then why this horizontal deviation? This apparently seems to contradict Newton's first law. This has been attributed to the aerodynamic interaction that occur with the ball. This interaction is known as Magnus effect.

I hope that this explanation of science on this game doesn't put you off. If so, I beg your pardon for making your Rum tasting bitter and the calypso so cacophonic. As of me, I would probably have to bear with the possible lackluster performance of one time batting maestro, Sachin Tendulkar in this tournament.
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