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Projectiles and March Madness



Unless you are living under a rock, you would know that March Madness and the beloved basketball season are officially coming to a close.  As sad as this end may be for some die hard basketball fans, it should be noted that the sport of basketball (like most other things in our world) is possible only due to the presence of physics.  While there are many possible applications of physics, from the friction between the shoes of the players and the court, to the tension (or lack thereof) in the strings of the basketball hoop, I would like to draw attention to the most important part of the game: shooting a hoop.  When a basketball player takes a shot, they are in essence sending the basketball into a path that is very similar to that of a projectile.  However, the basketball player must take into account their distance from the hoop and the height of the hoop when taking their shot.  As a result, some shots seem to go higher (due to a larger angle of projection), while other shots seem to be more horizontal in nature due to a smaller angle of projection.  Why?  Well, when the angle of projection is increased, the y-component of the ball's velocity increases due to the sinecomponent of the angle, so the ball goes faster and further in the y-direction.  The opposite is true for smaller angles of projection.


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