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450-year-old football was hard to kick

Journal releases pile of sports research, possibly answers every pub argument forever

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The Journal Procedia Engineering has published the proceeds of the 2012 Engineering of Sport Conference and may therefore have answered so many questions about sport that there is no longer any point in going to the pub.

There are over 150 papers on offer in the trove and all appear to be serious science, including this one (PDF) that analyses a 450 year-old football and finds it would fail all seven of FIFA's tests for match-ready orbs.

It will come as no surprise that the ball was rather lighter and less durable than those made today, and that means, the paper says “the low coefficient of restitution would have made hard kicks much less rewarding.” It therefore suggests the football of the day may have been closer to hackey sack than the infamous all-in matches banned by Henry VIII.

Another paper from the trove, The effect of atmospheric conditions on the swing of a cricket ball, is already ruffling feathers in the cricket world thanks to an insistence that humidity has nothing to do with swing bowling.

Cricketers can also feast on Determination of spin rate and axes with an instrumented cricket ball, while cyclists lusting after new vibration-dampening carbon goodies may find Cycling comfort on different road surfaces helpful in constructing arguments for four-figure cycle spends. Obsessive racers are probably poring over Effects of ‘posture length’ on joint power in cycling as you read this article. Baseball, badminton, American football, golf and rugby are all studied in a section named “Aerodynamics of Sport Projectiles”, while you can now assess the worth of sports clothing thanks to a section on “Aerodynamics of Athletic Gear”.

There's even a paper titled “Improving comfort while hiking in a sailing boat”, which makes sense once your read the abstract and learn that hiking has something to do with pushing the legs while sailing.

At a combined 890 pages, the collection of papers isn't likely to be lugged into many pubs. But nor will it be too unwieldy to leave behind the bar, where it could become a serious challenger to that book of records published by a brewery, albeit one requiring a little more scientific knowledge to appreciate. ®

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