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A Bit of Backspin Physics Turns a Basketball into a Glider

Quick, make a prediction: What happens if you drop a basketball with a slight backspin off the top of a 126.5 meter (415 foot) dam? Now watch what happens in the video above from friend and colleague Derek Muller of the science series Veritasium. You might be surprised.

With only its spin and gravity acting to steer the basketball, there is enough of a force to put the ball on a seriously curved trajectory. Why? It’s called the Magnus Effect, which we’ve known about for centuries. The effect is so well known in fact that we’ve even tried building sailboats and planes that use only spinning cylinders for sails and wings, respectively. And amazingly, they work!

Watch the full video for the deceptively simple explanation of the Magnus Effect, and check out the rest of Muller’s videos at his fantastic channel here.

Magnus_GIF

IMAGES: Veritasium

HT: YouTube

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