THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND PERHAPS NONE OF THE ABOVE
In an effort to provide total transparency, I admit to being a New England Patriots fan since we moved to Massachusetts in 1976.
In an attempt for further transparency, I let you know that I am a disciple of George Carlin, America’s greatest philosopher and social conscience. In his last performance, Mr. Carlin made it clear what should have always be obvious. “We need to focus at least as much on teaching children to question everything they read (see, hear) as we do on teaching them to read.”
Furthermore, I am by nature driven more by intellect than emotions. I will not pass on information unless I know where it came from, the sources of research and the objectivity of those who did the research and then those who interpreted the results.
Having said the above, I attest that the following information presented is objective and not influenced by “fandom.”
I was actually watching the playoff game between the Patriots and Colts when time was called by an official and the ball “confiscated.” I actually didn’t think anything about it.
In time, the issue of whether or not the ball had proper inflation and, if not, who was responsible, became an NFL and media subject.
Having some knowledge of Physics and reviewing the Ideal Gas Law, I had serious doubts about findings related to the multi-million-dollar Wells investigation. “Upon further review” I found there were many others who had the same misgivings. They included Dr. John J. Leonard, Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), scientists Ben Taylor, Nick Kistner, Stephen McIntyre, Thomas Healy (a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, PA), Max Tegmark (Professor of Physics at MIT), Alan Nathan (nuclear physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Professor Richard P. Benzel at MIT and SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation to name just a few.
Clearly, these individuals and entities are far more intelligent than I in their respective fields. According to all of them, THE PATRIOTS MAY HAVE SCIENCE ON THEIR SIDE, AFTER ALL! But I digress.
To begin with, both Logo and Non-Logo gauges are used by the NFL. Those two cost about $16.00 each. The ones used by scientists studying air pressure cost in excess of $300.00 each. The reason for the cost disparity is the need for consistent accuracy. That does not exist in the Logo and Non-Logo gauges. In addition, the referee who tested the balls could not recall if he used the same gauge to test the balls before and after the fact.
Dr. John Leonard points out that the NFL purpose was to catch cheaters and not understand how air pressure behaves in footballs during games. In fact, full readings of the PSI (pounds per square inch) for balls during the 333 preseason, regular-season and post season 2015 games quite possibly would have led to the conclusions different than Ted Wells and company presented in May: That the evidence as to whether the Patriots tampered with the footballs prior to the AFC title game is inconclusive at best.
Further, he stated that, “ basically, the league found a way to create the impression that it has created a system for checking footballs without creating evidence that could have exonerated the Patriots, or at worst shown that Wells and his investigators failed to parlay their multi-million-dollar fee into a cracking of the case. A full and complete analysis of the footballs in 2015 may have helped the league get to the truth. That may have prompted the league to restore New England’s draft-pick penalty and rescind the fine.” Of course, this could be the main reason why the NFL opted not to learn everything there was to learn about PSI behavior during the 2015 season.
Dr. Leonard produces experimental results and refers to the Gay-Lussac’s Law which are far beyond my level of understanding. For those of you who are interested and understand the true science involved, you can go on line and get all of his findings, as I did.
His assessment is, THERE WAS NO TAMPERING.
Thomas Healy, a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University (a private research institute in Pittsburgh, Pa), detailed experimental data on how atmospheric conditions might have reduced the air pressure in footballs used by the New England Patriots in their victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The main question was did the Patriots tamper with the balls or whether simply moving them from the warmth of a locker room to the chill and dampness of the field could account for the deflation. An advanced copy of his technical paper was presented to the New York Times. It concluded that most or all of the deflation could be explained by those experimental effects.
Dr. Max Tegmark, a professor of physics at MIT who reviewed Healy’s paper at The Time’s request stated, “The analysis looks solid to me. To me, their measurements mean that there’s no evidence of foul play.”
As a non-scientific addition, I point out that AFTER the balls were removed and tested at halftime, the Patriots scored 28 points compared to 17 scored in the first half.
Alan Nathan, a nuclear physicist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign is also known for his work in the physics of baseball. Sammy Sosa, a Chicago Cubs outfielder, was caught with a corked bat in 2003. Nathan eventually concluded that corking a bat does not make much difference, especially for Sosa’s specialty, which was hitting home runs.
“It’s probably much ado about nothing,” Nathan said of the football controversy. “I would be pretty surprised if the NFL takes any serious action on this.”
The Ideal Gas Law applied to real situations can be surprisingly deceptive. When a gauge indicates that the ball contains 12.5 psi-the minimum allowed by the NFL- the actual pressure is more than twice that amount because the surrounding pressure of the atmosphere must be considered.
This roughly doubles how much a dip in temperature can lower the pressure. Even MIT professor Tegmark during a phone conversation, initially used the lower value until recognizing the mistake. “I stand corrected,” he said, before adding: “It’s pretty funny that the ideal gas law is making headlines.”
SOLIDWORKS Simulation is a computer-aided engineering (CAE) program published by Dessault Systemes. As of 2013 over two million engineers and designers at more than 165,000 companies were using SolidWorks (Wikipedia). They stated that, “We in the world of simulation are aware of both the power and limitations of hand calculations. In this case, it does appear that the ideal gas law predicts at least some of the reported pressure drop, but using this equation makes one big assumption: that the temperature of the air inside the ball actually would cool down to the same temperature as the air on the field. Luckily, a heat transfer problem like this is just the type of thing SOLIDWORKDS Flow Simulation, our embedded computational fluid dynamics tool, is designed to tackle.”
They go on to describe the technical aspects of their project, making sure that the key physical conditions assure an accurate simulation. They concluded having a final pressure of 11.45 psi, equal to a drop of 1.05 psi. It was a partial explanation, but didn’t account for the drop of two pounds reported by the officials at halftime. However, there is more and it is related to comments made by Coach Bill Belichick at a press conference. He claimed that in addition to the on-field cooling, the balls could have been affected by the team’s normal “conditioning” process, where they try to break in the leather to create a more pleasing grip for Brady. This is a similar process used every day by baseball umpires before games and by pitchers every time they get a new ball. It is also what is done by other football teams before games.
Once again, hand calculations are of no use here, but Flow Simulation can find the answer. The assumption, based on team information, was that the balls would be “conditioned,” i.e. rubbed for something like 5 minutes, or until the outside surface of the ball was roughly the temperature of someone’s hands. A bit of research led to the fact that in a 73 degree (F) room, the average temperature of a person’s hands is 86 degrees (F). To simulate the friction of the conditioning, heat generation of 10 Watts was applied to the outside of the ball. By comparison, the average human body at rest generates about 70 Watts of heat.
Since the balls were conditioned before the pressure was measured, the question becomes what would the footballs have measured at halftime if they were in fact filled to 12.5 psi when the air inside the ball was 85 degrees (F), rather than the assumed locker room temperature of 73 degrees (F)? The new numbers were plugged into the program and re-run to find out.
Behold, after 60 minutes of exposure, the air inside would still have cooled down significantly, albeit about 3 degrees above ambient (outside temperature). Still, the now-larger temperature change of 31 degrees results in a corresponding drop in pressure to 10.95 psi, aka “under-inflated” by 1.55 psi. Using the type of gauges the officials had, they would have rounded that number up to “two pounds.”
What does all this science prove? Can it be said with any degree of certainty that the balls were or were not intentionally deflated? The answer is that it depends on what you want to conclude. The above information was presented to Commissioner Roger Goodell and it was passed on to the Competion Committee (made up of team owners). Both entities refused to consider the science presented that showed the Wells investigation, for which they paid millions of dollars, was scientifically invalid. I leave it to conspiracy theorists to contemplate possible reasons.
The court hearings had nothing to do with the validity of the Wells investigation or if, in fact, the balls had been deflated. The decision involved only whether the Commissioner had the right to impose penalties against the New England Patriots and Tom Brady.
Those who know me well would confirm the fact that I would report if all the above mentioned studies conclusively showed that the footballs had been tampered with. Then again, there would be no reason to report on what was already known. That would be a waste of your time and mine. As always, I ASK THAT YOU DON’T BELIEVE WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN. Please, if you wish, check out the facts I have presented and reach your own conclusions.
Dr. Leonard Rudnick (obviously, not fully retired)