Have you ever really thought about the physics of striking a golf ball? What seems like the simplest action in the world, hitting a ball towards a hole, is actually a complex chain reaction rife with scientific principles.
First, the eyes and brain perform intricate calculations as they size up the situation. How far is the hole? At what angle should I strike the ball? What is the grade of the putting surface? How hard should I hit the ball? All of these questions are estimated based on past experience, muscle memory, instinctive knowledge, and good, old-fashioned guesswork. The brain comes up with its best estimate and sends nerve impulses down the spinal cord and into the limbs.
In order for the limbs to function properly, the muscles must contract and extend, joints must twist and turn, oxygenated blood must pump through arteries, veins, and capillaries, and tendons and ligaments must stretch and bend. All of this requires energy which comes in the form of calories from the carbohydrates, protein, and fats contained in your food (hopefully from a healthy meal in our Smart Café!). Your body burns the appropriate amount of energy to perform the physical action dictated by your brain and, hopefully, your body responds in kind.
Energy in the form of force is transferred from the body’s core, into the arms, and down the shaft of the golf club into the club head. This force generates an impact with the golf ball. Newton’s first law of motion states that a body persists in a state of rest unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force. In this case, the force of the club head impact serves as the external unbalanced force. Since a force is now acting on the ball, the ball responds to Newton’s second law of motion by accelerating relative to its mass.
The ball will continue to roll at a steady velocity forever if no other forces act upon it…but of course, this is never the case on Earth. In our mini-golf example, a number of forces will eventually stop the ball from moving. First, gravity is always acting on the ball, pulling straight down towards the Earth’s core. Second, the friction of the turf is always slowing the ball’s velocity as it travels. Third, the mini-golf holes are enclosed by barriers and the ball, if struck hard enough, will eventually ricochet off a wall which will change the ball’s vector. Of course, if you’re lucky and/or good, the forces you impart on the ball will keep it rolling until it comes to its final resting place at the bottom of the hole you were initially aiming for.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Every action we take, no matter how minor it seems, is brimming with science. Think about the physics, chemistry, and biology inherent in every step we take…every word we speak…everything we do! The world is full of scientific principles and the only way to truly understand them is to explore and learn!
Bob Levine is the Exhibit Project Manager at McWane. He is an avid reader, history and film buff, mediocre guitarist, and die-hard Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots fan. He lives with his beautiful wife, newborn baby girl and their two rambunctious dogs, Abigail and Quincy.