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Sci-Tech

Bill Nye says Belichick is full of hot air (other scientists disagree)

The Science Guy says the only way to change ball pressure is with a needle. However, some researchers believe the Patriots coach.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Now there's a concept for a great TV show. ABC News/ Deadspin screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

America's science classes will only have one topic tomorrow: Does New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick have science in the palm of his hand?

The only subject inflating American passions currently is the dispute concerning the possible deliberate deflation of footballs by the Patriots, in order to suit quarterback Tom Brady's proclivities.

Yesterday, Belichick explained that before last Sunday's game between his team and the Indianapolis Colts, the balls had gone through a rubbing process in warm temperatures. So when they appeared in the 51 degrees of the outside world, the air pressure in them dropped below the legal NFL limit of 12.5 pounds per square inch.

The coach insisted that the Patriots had performed experiments last week and found that the ball pressure had dipped by 1.5 psi because of the climate change.

But what does science say about this? Well, Bill Nye the Science Guy appeared on Good Morning America this morning. His verdict on Belichick's was: "Pfffft."

As Deadspin reports, Nye offered: "I'm not too worried about coach Belichick competing with me. What he said doesn't make any sense."

Nye insisted that only an inflation needle could change the ball's pressure in some radical way. He also added: "I cannot help but say -- go Seahawks."

Science is not universally standing behind Nye, however. The boffins at HeadSmart Labs, who develop testing devices to aid in reducing sports concussions, did their own experiment.

They tested a temperature difference of 75 degrees and the game time on the field 51 degrees. They also wet the 12 brand new footballs to simulate real game time conditions on the day in question.

The moisture, these scientists argue, would increase the volume of the ball and decrease the pressure.

I have no reason to believe these are a covert group of Patriots obsessives. They are students and professors at Carnegie Mellon University, so they might know their science.

They discovered that merely the drop in temperature and the wetness of the balls reduced the pressure by an average of 1.8 psi. The maximum they saw was a drop of 1.95 psi.

That is today's Belifull of deflationary science. Mythbusters, it's over to you.