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Planet Earth

Thwok!

InkfishBy Elizabeth PrestonJuly 7, 2010 11:42 AM

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Did you know Wimbledon ended? I totally missed it. But what's not over is the World Cup. BVVVVVVVvvvvvVVVVVVVzzzzzzzzzVVVVV! (That's how you say "Woohoo!" in Afrikaans.)

In Zulu, "to celebrate" is jabulani, which is also the name of this year's new soccer ball. While a normal soccer ball is made of 32 panels--a mix of hexagons and pentagons--the Jabulani has only 8 panels. And instead of being stitched together, which creates deep grooves, the panels are thermally bonded. This means the surface of the ball seems to be smoother, overall, compared to the classic black-and-white ball.

But apparently, a bumpier surface is better. That's why golf balls have dimples: they cause the air flow to hug the ball tightly, which reduces drag and makes the ball fly straighter. With a smooth surface, the air flow kind of zips off from the ball and creates a wide wake behind it. You can see this in the video from Caltech that I screen-grabbed above. Instead of hugging the back of the ball, the air is shooting away from it. Researchers say that this might make the new soccer ball fly in an unpredictable way. I'm sure that British goalie will be eager to agree.

In other sports news, did you know that Wimbledon had its first official poet this year? Matt Harvey wrote a new poem for every day of the competition. In honor of the three-day Mahut-Isner marathon match, he wrote (inevitably, it seems) a haiku:

high performance play

all day yet still no climax

it's tantric tennis

His sound poem called "Thwok!" is both ridiculous and pretty awesome.

bounce bounce bounce bounce

thwackety wackety zingety ping

hittety backety pingety zang

wack, thwok, thwack, pok

...Actually, you should just listen to him reading the whole thing, because the British accent makes it better.

By the end, Harvey admitted he was "losing it slightly":

so Serena really oughta

fear a Vera Zvonareva

upset--she knows she could not get

a more ominous opponent

But isn't some silly rhyming a nice foil to the usual earnestness of Wimbledon? I'm sure Ogden Nash would have thought so. And he certainly would have wanted me to balance out all the seriousness on this site with some lighthearted poetry. So here's Ogden, commenting on--what else?--the inkfish.

The Octopus

Tell me, O Octopus, I begs

Is those things arms, or is they legs?

I marvel at thee, Octopus;

If I were thou, I'd call me Us.

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