Neil deGrasse Tyson Admits That His Own #DeflateGate Science Was Way Off Too

01.27.15 3 years ago 7 Comments
2006 Summer TCA Day 18

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DeflateGate has been a hot topic since the AFC Championship game nearly two weeks ago. Instead of having to fabricate drama between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks going into this Sunday’s Super Bowl, members of the media have fabricated a faux-outrage full of countless “ball” jokes. The point is that it was fun until people started to get serious about it.

That’s where folks like Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson come in, allowing science to enter the arena and drawing people out of the woodwork to talk pressure levels and air temps.

But as it turns out, Tyson was off on his calculations. Many online took to their keyboards to say that he plugged in the wrong numbers for his formula and got an incorrect conclusion relating to the balls the Patriots used on the field. Hearing these complaints, Tyson took to Facebook to accept his flub:

My calculation used the well-known gas formula that relates pressure to temperature within a fixed volume. Quite simply, the two quantities are directly and linearly related. e.g. Halve the temperature, you’ve halved the pressure. Triple the temperature, you’ve tripled the pressure.

Shortly afterwards, many of my physics-fluent twitter followers, as well as others in the blogosphere, were quick to point out that in my calculation I neglected to account for the fact that the football pressures were “gauge” pressures (as would be the pressures measured in any ball on Earth) rather than “absolute” pressures. And the calculation that I performed applies only to absolute pressures — which reference the case where the football pressure is measured in the vacuum of space, without the effects of atmospheric pressure on the measurement. Using the (correct) gauge pressure in the calculation reduces the needed inflation temperature to about 90-degrees for that effect.

This is simply an oversight on my part, and I’m glad so many stepped forward to correct it.

I believe this is the point where the entire scandal reaches critical levels of absurdity, but this is the Internet, I don’t know what I should’ve expected. Of course someone is going to come out and correct the math involved here, even if it was silly in the first place. Tyson does manage to bring it back around to reality by the end of his post:

But what it means is that the Patriots would simply need to have inflated the balls with (more accessible) 90 degree air rather than 125 degree air. A delightfully moot point since neither temperature absolves the NE Patriots even as we all know that the NE Patriots, in their 45 to 7 victory over the Colts, would have won the game no matter the ball pressure. And, as far as I am concerned, the Patriots would have won that game even in the vacuum of space.

Perfect conclusion. Wraps things up nicely. I guess that means there’s only one thing left to do:

(Via Neil deGrasse Tyson)

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