Brainstorms: The Flight of Sports Balls:
Why Do Baseballs Have Stitches and Golf Balls Dimples?
Most sports balls, such as those used in golf, baseball, cricket, ping pong, tennis and soccer, are intended to follow a particular trajectory and be propelled at a certain speed. These games were 'invented' well before we had a complete understanding of the motions of the projectiles involved, yet it is amazing that the balls we use have evolved in ways that are optimized for the intended purpose. Each has a particular size, weight, and more interestingly, the absence or presence of peculiar surface characteristics. We'll discuss how these special features cause sports balls to travel longer distances and why they take strange trajectories during their flight. While this presentation most likely will not help you improve your game, it will provide you with many of the reasons why you might not excel in it as you would like.
Ruth G. and William K. Bowes Professor, School of Engineering
Channing Robertson is Senior Associate Dean for Faculty & Academic Affairs in the School of Engineering and is also a faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering. His research focuses on the behavior of proteins at or near solid and liquid interfaces. He additionally conducts research in the area of metabolic engineering where microorganisms are manipulated at the gene level to produce useful chemicals and substances. In the fall of 2000 he was featured in Upside Magazine's special issue on "100 People Who Have Changed the World."