Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Breaking news: soccer balls no longer polyhedral !

The soccer ball provides a great example of Euler's formula (I'm told it's also fun to kick it around and stuff). It consists of 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons, and a standard question one can ask is: why can't we tile the whole surface with hexagons ? This shape is also called the Buckyball, and is a special case of a carbon allotrope called a fullerene.

Apparently, the soccer balls being used at the World Cup are no longer polyhedral. They consist of 14 pieces, many of which look a lot like the squashed oval shape you see on tennis balls and baseballs. This makes the ball rounder and faster, and apparently gives it baseball-like effects when moving through the air. Players (and especially goalkeepers) have been complaining about this, but then they complain every World Cup, so....

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