Physics students calculate how to take the perfect set piece

To mark World Maths Day, The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair is showcasing how relevant maths is by giving it real life application in advance of the resumption of Premier League fixtures, including the Champions’ trip to Chelsea (today).

The formula, developed by students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, tested by England under-17 international Riva Casley, calculates how to take the perfect set piece.

Taking into account the size of the ball, the density of the air and the distance from goal, the formula can help footballers know where and how hard to kick the ball to score every time.

The formula (below) demonstrates that the distance a ball bends (D) as a result of the ‘Magnus Force’ is related to the ball's radius (R), the density of air (ρ), the ball's angular velocity (ω), its velocity through the air (v), its mass (m) and the distance travelled by the ball in the direction it was kicked (x).

Jasmine Sandhu, a PhD student from our University specialising in Physics with Space Science and Technology, said: “This formula may seem complicated, but in reality it is a mathematical expression of what good footballers do every time they line up a free kick or a penalty.

“For instance, if a player standing 15 metres away from the by-line kicked an average football so that it was travelling at a velocity of 35 metres per second and had an angular velocity of 10 revolutions per second, the ball would bend around 5 metres towards the goal.

"This formula can help players become more aware of how they can use spin to bend the ball in a game of football. In addition, this research is also relevant to other sports, such as tennis, which shows that physics definitely gives you the edge!"

The Big Bang Fair gives young people the chance to discover the real-life applications of science and maths, from sport to medicine, from gaming to space travel. The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair takes place from the 15-18 March 2017 at the NEC in Birmingham. For more information, visit the website.

The students presented their findings a short article for the Journal of Physics Special Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. The student-run journal is designed to give students practical experience of writing, editing, publishing and reviewing scientific papers.

  • Research at the University of Leicester not only informs its teaching, it is inseparably intertwined with it. This relationship sees researchers bring their innovation into the classroom and its students inspired to research and is at the heart of Leicester’s ambition to pioneer a distinctive elite of universities.