A basketball dropped from a height will just fall straight down, but when you add a bit of backspin, something really cool happens.
The guys in the YouTube video are at Tasmania’s Gordon Dam, which is 415 feet high. Find out just what happens when you add a little spin to the ball—it’s called the Magnus effect.
Veritasium’s Derek Muller from the video explains the more technical side of the effect: “As the basketball picks up speed, air on the front side of the ball is going the same direction as its spin, and therefore it gets dragged along with the ball and deflected back. Air on the other side is moving opposite to the ball’s spin, so the flow separates from the ball instead of getting deflected. The net result is the ball pushes the air one way so the air applies an equal force on the ball the other way.”
Surprising applications of the Magnus effect:
“I literally just dropped it with a bit of spin, like, I didn’t even throw it and it just took off; we had no idea it was going to do that,” the guy who dropped the basketball said.
So instead of falling straight down, it takes flight. This explains how the balls in ball games seem to do really amazing things.
The Magnus effect was named after the German physicist and chemist H.G. Magnus, who described it in 1853.