As the World Cup draws closer and football fever starts to take over, physicist Nick Linthorne has found out how players like Gary Neville can achieve the perfect long throw-in, which could be crucial in setting up a goal for the England squad. An article, A new angle on throwing, in the June edition of Physics World, describes how the physics of projectiles can be used to calculate the optimum angle at which a ball needs to be released to achieve the longest possible throw-in. The article describes how the optimum angle is much less than physicists previously believed.
When a player takes a long throw-in, they want the ball to travel as far as possible. The distance a ball travels when it is thrown depends on both the speed at which it is released and the launch angle. According to the laws of basic physics, a simple projectile will travel furthest when launched at an angle of 45 degrees.
However, this approach assumes that the launch speed is independent of the launch angle. New research, however, has found out that this is not true in practice, as when most footballers take a throw-in they use shallower angles nearer 30 degrees. This is because the muscles in a player’s arms and back allow more horizontal than vertical force to be exerted on the ball when it is released.
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