12 July 2012

More Fun at the ISEA Conference

Today was really fun for me at the 9th Conference of the International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA).  The conference began activities today with a keynote address from the person writing this blog post.  I enjoyed giving that speech as much as any talk I've ever given.  I built on some of my earlier blog posts about the conference and noted how special it is that we all see the world in different ways.  The engineers at this conference have taught me new ways to think about problems and new ways to attack those problems.  I hope I've been able to shed a little light on how a physicist sees the world.  My keynote address this morning gave the audience a brief look at how I, as a physicist, view some of the events at the upcoming Olympics in London.  I ended my talk by urging those in the audience to get into elementary schools at least once a year and show kids how great it is to be a scientist or engineer (whichever label fits better!) using sports as the vehicle.  Following my talk, several audience members shared their efforts to reach out to kids.  There are some very creative people out there trying to get kids interested in science.  As I note on the first page of my book, children make the best scientists.  They do, however, couple insatiable curiosity with a great deal of credulity.  Learning to do science well means learning to ask questions, and require data and evidence to support answers.  We don't want to tell kids what to think; we want to help them learn how to think.

The first session of talks I heard was titled "Aerodynamics of Sports Projectiles."  I saw great talks on shuttlecocks, knuckleballs, and soccer ball surfaces.  Because three talks run simultaneously, I missed (and have missed) several talks I wanted to see.  I did have to miss the fourth session talk so that I could hear my former office mate at Sheffield, James Clarke, talk about his work on shoe-surface interactions in tennis.

After a session on "Protective Equipment," I moved on to the session "Aerodynamics of Sports Projectiles" (again!), which was chaired by my friend and colleague, Alan Nathan, who I got to know well at last year's summer meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers, where we were both invited to give sports talks.  Alan has done a lot of great work over the years on baseball physics.  Anyway, I heard fascinating talks on shuttlecocks, Doppler radar to track sports balls (indirectly, it turns out), and non-rotating soccer balls.  My own soccer aerodynamics talk was the fourth and last of the session.  I was flattered by the good turnout and the many questions I was asked following my talk.

After another session on "Aerodynamics of Sports Projectiles," I attended the poster session.  There are so many wonderful research areas, from new baseball bats to the weathering of American football helmets.  In summary, a great day at the conference!

I was, unfortunately, unable to attend the evening banquet at a nearby farm.  I've had to miss out on all the evening entertainment here in Lowell because I've got a herniated disc in my back.  I've been able to fake walking upright during the day, but I can't fake it much past 5:00 pm.  It's bad timing to have a back issue right now, but I look on the bright side and reflect on how much I've learned and how many great researchers I've met from all over the world.  I'm glad I'm here!

Click here for an article that quotes me as I talk about the conference.

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