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The Physics of a Football in the Air



Since I was watching football (Go Bills!), I was thinking about the forces acting upon a football in the air.  Newton's laws help dictate the pattern of all moving objects, including footballs.  The path of a football's flight is not random, it is the result of the physical forces of inertia, air resistance, and gravity.  Newtons first law of motion states that an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.  A football travels in a parabolic path because of outside forces like air resistance to keep the ball from traveling in a straight line.

Newton's second law states that the total change of an objects motion is equal to the sum of all forces acting on that object. As a football flies through the air the forces acting on it are constantly changing, except gravity. As the quarterback releases the ball, inertia is the greatest force acting on it.  As the football reaches its highest point, inertia weakens due to air resistance.  Then gravity takes over and pulls the ball back towards the earth.




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