Saturday, November 20, 2010

Football and Mathematics

No doubt that football has become the U.S. favorite pastime. People tail gate in the stadiums' parking lot many hours before the start of a game. Many more people are loyal and frantic fans who carry funny signs or dress down when attending the games. Those who do not physically attend are still following the game through their fantasy football teams, betting with friends or online, watching it in sports bars or at home, or just listening the game on the radio in their way to work or home. In other words, football has become ubiquitous!

Southern Tier Youth Football Conference, by jdanvers, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  jdanvers 

But do you know what else is also ubiquitous? Mathematics! Yes, math is everywhere! NBC and Scientific American has created a series of videos and articles about the "Science of Football." I encourage you to visit the following links:

and watch/read how mathematics plays a major factor in making football U.S. favorite past time. Enjoy!

What Do a Submarine, a Rocket and a Football Have in Common?

Why the prolate spheroid is the shape for success

Baseballs, basketballs and many other sports balls rely on a spherical, uniform design that makes them easy to shoot, throw and hit. A football, however, owes its two-dimensional origin to the ellipse rather than the circle, giving the pigskin its prolate spheroid shape, which has a polar axis that is greater than its equatorial diameter.
This shape makes the football more difficult throw than a spherical ball. But, as a prolate spheroid, a football experiences less drag as it cuts through the air, which explains why you can toss a football farther than a spherical ball such as a basketball or soccer ball that is roughly the same size and weight.
Aircraft, submarines and rockets share the basic design principles as footballs in that their shapes are elongated in an effort to reduce drag.
prolate spheroids cannot match the distance of one class of geometric shape: A flying disc (Frisbee) or ring (Aerobie) not only have slim profiles that reduce drag and rotation that increase stability, but they also create lift, enabling them to carry quite far.Read more at

Monday, November 15, 2010

Life is a Gamble!?!

When I created this blog, the purpose was to help my students gain awareness of how mathematics is essential in many facets of our lives. Interestingly, I have realized that I am also gaining awareness of how I use mathematics seamlessly in my personal life.

My wife and I recently were discussing how to pay our monthly bills with my paycheck, because unfortunately, she did not receive her paycheck from a new job she got recently. We did not know the reasons why she did not receive her paycheck, but we knew that we have to pay the bills of the current month. My wife and I sat in the kitchen table discussing which bills should be paid or not based on many factors, such as late fees, damage to our credit line, and so forth. In a way, we were applying mathematics to our decision process because we were making calculated risks to decide which bills to pay or not.

I encourage you to read the article "Lectures Explore the Math of Decision-Making" because it brought up in me the realization of how many times I make decisions based on calculated risks. I hope you find the article as interesting as I did.

Amplify’d from

Lecture Explores the Math of Decision-Making

FIGURE 2: The different types of gamblers.
"People take risks at the casino but also in life," said Math Professor Sid Kolpas
As the returns on bets fluctuate, so does the gambler's mood and betting strategy.
How a human gambler responds to gain and loss is not symmetric like it is for Homo œconomicus, an imaginary being Allen dreamed up to demonstrate the rational, predictable decision-maker. "Homo œconomicus has only one desire: to increase his wealth."
Homo œconomicus would never play the lottery because the odds of winning the lottery are about one in 100 million, which is 0.000001 percent.
People tend to overreact to small probability events.
"What I'm interested in personally are the other types of gambles we have to make: who to marry, which house to buy and when to buy it, whether society can afford to ignore global warming."Read more at