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Screwball Physics – The Magnus Effect in Football (iStage 3)


In June 1997, Roberto Carlos scored an infamous goal in a 35 m free kick with the ball first going off in one direction and then magically curling towards the goal. How did that happen?

The answer is that the ball is spinning in the air and is subjected to the Magnus force. In the teaching unit ‚Screwball Physics‘ students are introduced to the influence of gravity, of the Magnus force and of the aerodynamic resistance on the trajectory of the ball. In simple experiments students simulate the trajectory of the ball with self prepared cylinders and analyse their rotation in free fall in air and under water with the aid of different mathematical models.

The teaching unit is taken from the brochure ‘iStage 3 - Football in Science Teaching’ from the topic ‘ball’. The complete brochure can be ordered free of charge via mail ( or downloaded. It was developed by 20 teachers from 15 countries around Europe. The project was proudly supported by SAP.

Authors: Anders Florén (SE), Philippe Jeanjacquot (FR), Dionysis Konstantinou (GR), Andreas Meier (DE), Corina Toma (RO), Zbigniew Trzmiel (PL)

All additional material for the brochure can be found here.

Try out this teaching idea and take part in the ‘European STEM League’! #EuropeanSTEMLeague

iStage 3 - Screwball Physics
iStage 3 - Bananenflanke
iStage 3 - Csavaros fizika
iStage 3 - Fisica con efecto
iStage 3 - Un ballon qui a la banane !
iStage 3 - Po(d)krecona fizyka
iStage 3 - Bláznivá fyzika
iStage 3 - Skruvad fysik
Flyer - European STEM League

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