This is in reference to the allegedly “deflated” footballs used by the New England Patriots in their winning playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. Since this victory propelled the Patriots into the Super Bowl, news of tampering spread like wildfire.
However, Thomas Healy, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote a paper on how atmospheric conditions might have reduced the air pressure in the footballs. Max Tegmark, a professor of physics at MIT, reviewed the paper and concluded that calculations, based on PV = nRT, prove that there was no evidence of cheating on the part of the Patriots.
As a chemist and teacher, I can say this situation shows, once again, that there is often a scientific explanation behind daily events. What’s more, this timely and highly publicized phenomenon can be used to demonstrate the gas laws in a way that will no doubt spark the interest of students for years to come.
Ann T. Kelley