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How to rig a football to deflate (Update)

UPDATE Jan. 27:  Physicist spells out a way to make footballs “shrivel to completely flat after cooling.”


The New England Patriots could have legally rigged footballs to wind up underinflated.

Patriots head coach Bill Bellichick spelled out much of this scenario in a news conference much of the media apparently failed to understand.

He said vigorous rubbing to break in the balls raised the internal temperature. Then the air was adjusted (by the NFL refs, he implied), to the minimum, per the team’s request. Taking the ball into the cold outside would then automatically drop the air pressure below the legal minimum.

Bellichick argued it was all just accidental.

But could his confusing speech have been deliberately vague to cover up further but actually legal steps?

Heat inside, deflate, take outside

1. Heat it. (Hair dryer, warm in a sauna, running under hot water in a shower or hot tub.) Air pressure inside increases.
2. Release air to legal minimum (12.5 pounds per square inch).
3. Let refs check the ball. Seems OK.
4. Take outside in cold weather. Air inside chills and air pressure drops.

Nefarious but totally legal.

UPDATE: Boston University physics professor Martin Schmaltz spells out how a ball acclimated to a heated room could read 12.5 psi then show a dramatic pressure drop after being exposed to cold.

Replace dry air inside with steam, etc.

1. Remove all air. Pump up ball in environment saturated with steam or water vapor (like a locker room).
2. Follow steps 1 to 4 above.
5. Because of the cold, water vapor/steam inside CONDENSES, and air pressure inside DROPS EVEN MORE.

Bellichek was able to explain a pound on underinflation.

Perhaps the steamy explanation could account for the full two pounds.

This also explains why nothing unusual inadvertently happened to the footballs used by the Indianapolis Colts.

UPDATE: Physics professor Schmaltz agrees (to a degree). He emailed:

you are right.

although air at full saturation and 12.5 PSI pressure only holds about a factor of 2 less moisture than air at one atmosphere (assuming the same temperature). so the total amount of water is not that much, about 0.3 worth.

However, if you combine both effects, heat and water vapor, you can win big. As an extreme example, if you were to fill the balls with pure steam (at > 212F) to 12.5 PSI then the balls would shrivel to completely flat after cooling down just a little. of course, the ref might notice that something’s up 😉 but even a modest increase in temperature allows much higher levels of partial pressure due to water vapor.

cheers -m

UPDATE: USA Today shares same theory, quotes another physics professor:

Chang Kee Jung, a football fan and physics professor at The State University of New York at Stony Brook, chuckled when the theory was explained. But he agreed it’s possible — not only because of the temperature change, but other effects from the steam in the sauna.

“If you put it in the moisture with the hot air, then what happens is that some of the air — which is moist water — it could condense and then it could even more rapidly lose pressure,” Jung said. “They may consider it not illegal, but if they actually did it, does that really pass the moral test?”

A third wrinkle (new): Chill footballs on the sidelines

If the Patriots chilled balls in a cooler before using, they would have deflated even more — without releasing any air.

Once the media picks up the proper explanations, talk will deflate about punishing the Patriots, because if there was cheating, it didn’t violate the rules.

Back in the act!

Let the resurrection begin.

After 25 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and two more at, I finally totally on my own, ready to share, ready to dare, ready to stare .. at the walls, if you know what I mean.

Over the last six or years since I last blogged, I’ve learned a lot about websites, and communicating.

Be brief. Create things of lasting value. Remind about oldies but goodies. And add all sorts of playful art or other graphics.

Stay tuned.

I hope to post something almost daily from here out.

Peter Mucha



Reviving a dormant blog

I just might start blogging again. Stay tuned.



Edible Tree Leaves!

While cooking spinach for an omelet, i thought: Why can’t this stuff grow on trees? Indeed, when you think about it, tree leaves might be the most abundant “vegetable” there is. Except you can’t eat them! Just imagine if some tree like a maple were genetically engineering so that its leaves were nutritious and tasty! Good grief! We’d increase the world’s food supply astronomically! Though, better make sure it’s also great for rats … 

Alternatively, create leaves that decay into fossil fuel somehow … melt right into oil.

Who says money can’t grow on trees?

See also: “If Fruits and Veggies Moved” and “Foliage Grass.” 

A Solution to Foreclosure Crisis? Play Dominos … or Mortgage Musical Chairs

More than two million homes are expected to be foreclosed this year. What a waste. All because the owners can’t affort the particular payment on that house. Hmm. So what if we switched the people and the houses? Orchestrated a kind of mortgage musical chairs? Take Joe. Can’t afford his $600,000 house. But he could afford the payments on Jill’s $400,000 house, which she can’t afford. And she could afford the payments on the $250,000 house, which Andrea has been struggling to meet. So, sort of like with the domino transplant surgery on Grey’s Anatomy, Joe is switched to Jill’s house and Jill moves to Andrea’s. Obviously, the chain could be much longer. Yes, at the bottom of the scale, the person’s out of luck, and at the top the mortgage holder is, but the overall cost and pain might be greatly reduced. The banks would lose less money, housing prices would stabilize because more people stay in homes, and fewer people would have their credit ruined. Having so many houses threatened should actually make the process easier to pull off, and some kind of legislatively mandated incentives or assurances could help grease the skids. Might have to mandate that mortgages in such a chain can be assumed.

Part 2: Mortgage Sharing! Wait a minute, perhaps here’s another answer: You know that vacant house at the top? What about finding two or three would-be defaulters to share the house? They’d each get some equity, and together they could make the payments, keeping the pricey house off the market. Could also help save the folks displaced at the bottom of the chain. Pulling this off would be tricky, too. But in this era of computer matchmaking, you telling me out of millions of potential foreclosures, we couldn’t save hundreds of thousands of cases this way?

Also check out: Overnight Energy-Free Shipping and the National Wish Fulfillment Chain.

Anti-Dissatisfaction Drugs for Dieters, Addicts

We’ve all heard of appetite suppressants, or drugs that reduce desire. But what if the “gotta have it” process is a two-part thing? One chemical process produces desire. But it’s a separate deal that makes us feel rotten when the desire isn’t satisfied. After all, you don’t feel rotten as soon as you desire, right? You might even feel great as you make that ham sandwich, contemplate a cigarette, or order that eighth beer. But if you fail to satisfy the craving, a new feeling sets in … some kind of nagging discomfort, even akin to pain. What if a drug could reduce that feeling? It would be like taking aspirin for pain. OK, you’d still have the desire, but maybe you could live with it. Put it off with promises of “Get back to you later.”

5th Dimension Isn’t Time or Space, It’s Volatility

String theorists investigate the possibility that the universe has more than three dimensions of space and one of time. Positing more dimensions (usually curled up in tiny spaces) yields equations that, in some sets, describe facets of the universe very well. Problem is, as I foggily understand it, is that the possibilities are so astronomical (excuse the pun) that no one sure if this isn’t a one-size-fits-all theory, explaining nothing, just infinitely customizable to fit the data.

A precursor of string theory, in a way, was an observation made to Einstein: That if  relativity’s equations were in five dimensions, they would be in sync with those of quantum mechanics, and voila, there’s your unified field theory.

What if the fifth dimension isn’t one of space? Maybe that observation could be gotten to work without relying on places that could be hiding ghosts, Heaven, Hell and most of gravity. So what could it be? Since quantum mechanics seems to embedded with probabilities, how about probability as a dimension? Or, to state it from an object’s point of view, not an observer’s, call it volatility: The ability of an object to shift to hop, skip and dance to various spots. 

At the quantum level, the level of particles, this is a real phenomenon, which leaves folks scratching their heads, declaring that QM is like Zen: He who says he understands it, doesn’t. Since QM and Zen are both are both about the mysteries of the universe, wow, that sounds cool, like there’s magic going, or, as Einstein put it, God is rolling dice.

Being a visual guy, someone who believes the cosmos is conceivable, I’m inclined to think what’s going on has less to do with dice, than physicists underestimating the power of virtual particles, particles that zap in and out of Nothingness in pairs, then disappear. Suppose these virtual particles easily interact. Here’s Electron A, going on its merry way, when virtual Electron B flits into existence with its antiparticle, Positron B. Pos B smacks El A, wiping it out. Slam bang, so fast, observer would think there’s still an electron going on its merry way, except for some dang reason it’s not exactly where it was before. 

This could keep happening over and over, with the universe destroying and renewing itself constantly.  

Maybe such regeneration also explains how a single electron can create interference patterns when traveling through one of two slits. It’s always being interfered with! At the quantum level, everything is being interfered with.

I also think it’s possible this phenomenon could explain gravity: Gravity is a push!  Large masses (like the Earth) catch streaming virtual particles, but empty space doesn’t. So more virtual particles are flitting in and out of existence in the cosmic background from outside the Earth. As a result, as because these particles have momentum, as they interact and replace the particles that make up, we get pushed down toward the Earth.

If gravity is a push, that could explain dark energy! That’s the mysterious force pushing the Universe apart. How I’m not sure, since if the net result is like gravity as we know, masses should move toward each other.

Anyway, back to volatility. It is a dimension in a way. Including it in equations would extend the volume of space where a particle or object could be. With larger solid objects, this dimension, hey, what do you know? would seem to be curled up in a tiny space, since the regeneration process has little macro-scale effect. But at the quantum level, the effect is apparently significant.

By the way, consider how an “observer” somehow influences the Virtual Replacement Process? The Uncertainty Principle says it’s impossible to measure both an electron’s speed and location. Could it partly be because sending a photon into the electron’s zone alters the virtual patterns, or that the photo itself undergoes replacement?

A former coworker, Will Willamson, had a saying: You too can be replaced! Well, maybe you are!  

Patience Is Key to Conversation

OK, guilty as charged! If you’re not talking, I am. Which means no silences. This is crazy. It’s tough to talk and think at the same time. It’s tough to listen and think too. So talk a little, then wait. A good listener will soon say something  smart!

Turn Down Your Inner Volume

turn down your inner volume

Now I know this will sound a little … nuts / spacey / new agey / silly … you take your pick. But I had an interesting experience today. While in a store, I felt myself get quiet. Now I’m not saying relaxed or peaceful. Or mindless or egoless. No, I was just my normal self. Except that I stopped thinking LOUDLY. See how weird that sounds? But I found out that instead of talking quietly to myself, well, I kind of talk assertively, forcefully, LOUDLY … I kind of even yell (but silently) apparently often. Does this make sense to you? Oh, and if there’s music running in my head, I played that loudly too. So down went the volume, and another interesting feeling happened. I felt as it I had vanished … or had become some stealthy silent ghost. I expected people to bump into me. Explanation? Well, before, apparently, I talked in LOUD silence subconsciously thinking it made people notice me. Ego thoughts loudly running through head over here, look at me! Or something like that. So turning down the sound created the counter illusion of invisibility. Kind of cool. Kind of comforting. Kind of scary, too.

Probably worth trying as a meditation technique.

Here’s a link to another serving of Mind Helper: “Be Everywhere Eternally.”

Hope for Newspapers: Services Die, Not Media

The other day my daughter, or someone she was reading, likened the future of newspapers to the fate of milkmen. They couldn’t imagine the service would fade away, but it did. Radio dramas were once popular, too, but they’re now a relic too.

But in these examples is kind of buried a lesson for newspapers: Don’t confuse your service with your medium. The delivery business didn’t die, just the delivery of milk. The radio business is still alive and kicking, with a lot less fictional storytelling (whatever you think of talk radio). 

Similarly, people might stop reading news on paper, but paper probably won’t vanish as a medium. Books and magazines are still around (though they too are threatened by electronic versions), and free entertainment weeklies and shoppers are likely to persist.

The newspaper that survives then might be the one that news may not be the best thing to put on paper. Not in an age when printed words are hours or even days older than what’s available on the Internet.

Instead of trying to be timely, newspapers would be wise to embrace the timeless, original content with a long shelf life.  Useful information, like how-to and where-to and why-to stories. Explanatory writing. More commentary, including humor. Newsy storytelling, that revisits and retells events in cliffhanger style. Living advice. More puzzles and comics, of course. Plus why don’t papers create “programming,” the way TV does?

Not-so newsy papers could become nosey papers, by hosting “reality shows” the way TV does. Follow real life dramas (like a divorce or a difficult pregnancy or life in prison) or even set up local versions of shows like Biggest Loser, Survivor, or Big Brother.

Or “host” contests that play out dramatically like quiz shows.  

Reality shows and game shows have helped TV networks survive. Why not newspapers?

Shouldn’t somebody try it? 

For more concrete ideas, see my “How to Save Newspapers” website.

Could ‘snart’ be a useful word?

Idea: Combine smart and snide and make snart. Sounds kind of rude: He thinks he’s so snart.

3 drawbacks

1. Sounds too much like smart.

2. Snarky already does the trick.

3. Snart already exists, apparently, with a different meaning: “when one farts and sneezes at the same time, regardless of which causes which,” as so eloquently defined by the Urban Dictionary.

Solution: Instead, how about snartsy? Sounds like snart, snarky and artsy-fartsy all rolled up into one. For example, Mr. Snartsy Pants sounds even more insulting than Mr. Smarty Pants.

Overnight Energy-Free Shipping! And the National Wish Fulfillment Chain!

This a wild idea. Maybe it’s more of a stunt than a service. But with the power of the Web perhaps it’s possible: A way to ship something cross-country in just one day using almost no extra energy. Really puts the UNITED in United Parcel Service. Or maybe call it the Hand-Off Shipping Network. Basically people go to, just for fun and the eco-conscious kick and organizational thrill, and sign up, listing all the trips they regularly make, plus any extra scheduled longer trips.  

The trick is we’ll need hundreds if not thousands of people to sign up, because this will be pretty tricky to pull off.

Anyway, in advance of the stunt/demonstration/actual “shipment,” members will get emails asking if they have, or can borrow, a copy of a particular item.

Let’s say it’s Romeo & Juliet. Let’s it’s the play, not the DVD.

You respond, yes, I have a copy, or yes, I can borrow a copy.

Then a program goes through all the matches and figures out a national handoff network. A network that connects members across the country.

So how does Romeo & Juliet get from Atlantic City (Point A) to Yuma (Point Z) in a single day?

Well, it doesn’t. Not exactly. But on National Energy-Free Shipping Network Demonstration Day each member SIMULTANEOUSLY takes his or her copy to the next point in the chain. So the guy in Yuma gets a copy that day from a gal from Santa Fe, who just happened to be traveling to Yuma. When she gets back to Santa Fe, she’ll find her copy was already replaced by a dude from Boulder. He’ll find a copy when he returns home as well, dropped off by a lass from Denver. And so on, all across the country, people passing along Romeo & Juliet to the next step in the chain, while someone else is replenishing their given away copy.

Hmm. Kind of like Karma Shipping. “The Love You Make Is Equal to the Love You Take.”

Wouldn’t it be cool to do this with wishes?

Instead of everyone having the same copy, everyone lays out a different wish. Then you go and check the list of wishes and check out off, “Hey, I could fill that!”

The right website could then create The National Wish Fulfillment Chain. A kind of programmed Pay It Forward.

Each chain would link up people so each person has a wish come true. 

People, of course, could offer to grant wishes without asking for anything in return. That could be a check box: I’ll donate even if my wish isn’t granted.

Anybody want to help start either of these ideas?

Be Careful What You Wish For …

… if you don’t get it, you might wish for it over and over and over again.

… you might become it.

… you might do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

… it might be a trigger food and you might not be able to stop eating.

… you might get it and think, Is that all there is?

… if it’s any good, someone will try to steal it.

… you don’t have any room to store any more of the crap you wished for. 


I’m writing this on an Acer mini netbook I recently bought. Love its portability (2 lbs!) and affordable price ($350). Screen’s glarey in sunlight, but keyboard’s big enough for even my large paws. Anyway, for even more portability, why not invent the CompuSleeve? suggests a friend, Danielle Comisky. It’s a touch-screen computer that curls around your forearm. Take it with you wherever you go. Cover it to protect it with a jacket or shirtsleeve. At home, use it to read your cybernewspaper or do other computer tasks without needing any table space. Maybe there’s a bracelet that turns the touch screen on or off, or switches it between modes. Wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been thought of before, but I like to write these things down before researching, to avoid being influenced.

Other computer hardware ideas: The Trackball-Therapy Ball Chair and The Big Toe-Tappable Computer Keyboard.


Stooge Idol

Have tryouts to find a new Three Stooges. The national search! The embarrassing auditions where the losers can’t help coming across with dignity and intelligence! The judges … who … hit each other with seltzer and pies?

My best reality-TV idea since “Beer Factor“?