Although organisms obey the same physical laws as inanimate objects the evolutionary implications of these laws are often neglected. Physical factors influence the fitness value of traits and play an important role in the course of evolution. These are the areas of investigation that interest us.
Every four years, Adidas creates a newly designed ball for the World Cup. This year’s version is the Telstar 18, which features six glued panels (no stitching!) with a slightly raised texture. That subtle roughness is an important feature for the ball’s aerodynamics. It helps ensure that flow around the ball will become turbulent at relatively low speeds. Some previous designs, notably the 2010 Jabulani, were so smooth that flow near the ball would not become turbulent until much higher speeds. In fact, one side of the ball might have laminar flow while the other was turbulent, causing the ball to wobble and misbehave. To learn more about World Cup aerodynamics and the importance of a little surface roughness to the ball’s behavior, check out the Physics Girl video below. (Image credit: Adidas; via APS News; video credit: Physics Girl)