New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick dropped some science during a press conference on Saturday, Jan. 24 in an attempt to dismiss the NFL scandal that has come to be known as “Deflategate,” though his explanation was not impressive in the eyes of our favourite scientists, Bill Nye, The Science Guy and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Belichick and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady have done their best to dismiss the Deflategate scandal after officials discovered that 11 of the 12 balls that the Patriots used in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18 were deflated below NFL regulation.
The NFL requires footballs that are inflated to a pressure between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch (psi), but the balls used during the playoff game on Sunday (during which the Patriots buried the Colts 45-7), were deflated by about two psi, making them easier to grip and catch.
Both Belichick and Brady have denied any knowledge of the balls being tampered with.
Last week, Belichick and the Patriots conducted their own science experiment and simulated the preparation and inflation of several gameday balls to try and figure out how the balls deflated. They found that the pressure of the balls naturally changes as they are taken outside. Belichick delivered a summary of their results at a press conference on Saturday.
“When the footballs go out onto the field in the game conditions, whatever those conditions are whether it’s hot and humid, whether it’s cold and damp, whether it’s cold and dry … that’s where the footballs are played with and that’s where the measurements would be different than what they are in a controlled environment, and that’s what we found,” Belichick said at the press conference.
This makes scientific sense, to an extent.
The ideal gas law tells us that the colder the gas is inside of a closed space (like a football), the lower the pressure that gas exerts on the walls of the vessel.
However, last Sunday’s game was played in about 50-degree weather, which is not nearly cold enough to deflate the balls by two psi.
Astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, and one of our favourite scientists, Neil deGrasse Tyson, shot down the weather theory in one tweet:
For the Patriots to blame a change in temperature for 15% lower-pressures, requires balls to be inflated with 125-degree air.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) January 26, 2015
But Belichick tossed out another possible explanation during the press conference:
“We all know that air pressure is a function of the atmospheric conditions,” Belichick said. “It’s a function of that. So if there’s activity in the ball relative to the rubbing process, I think that explains why when we gave it to the officials and the officials put it at say [12.5 psi], if that’s in fact what they did, that once the ball reached its equilibrium state it probably was closer to [11.5] psi.”
His attempted explanation instantly earned him a new nickname: Bill Belichick, The Science Guy.
But Bill Nye, the real Science Guy, decided to weigh in as well:
“I’m not too worried with Coach Belichick competing with me,” Nye said to ABC’s Good Morning America. “What he said didn’t make any sense.”
Rubbing the football won’t change the pressure, Nye said. You would need an inflation needle to do that.
Nye did disclose during the interview that he is a Seattle Seahawks fan — the team the Patriots will play in the Superbowl on Feb. 2.
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