Eminent scientific organization at center of “deflate-gate” scandal
The widely reported “deflate-gate” scandal in which the New England Patriots allegedly used under-inflated footballs to gain an edge in their AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in December was conceived and executed by scientists as a way to “make physics sexy” and “get the country talking about physics,” according to a memo that’s surfaced during the NFL’s investigation of the Patriots’ ball-handling practices.
“We’re still looking into this, but if it’s true, it’s shocking news to say the least,” says NFL Executive Vice President Jay Pesh. “I want to caution that we are still in the middle of our investigation, which we promise will be thorough and fair. What we’re doing now is looking at the source of this memo, talking with people who are familiar with this memo, so that we can determine what the appropriate next steps will be.”
According to the memo, which was addressed to the executive committee of the American Physicists Association by Richard Morgan, the association’s director of social media, an association staff member would plant the story of improperly inflated footballs in the hopes of getting the media to talk about the science of air pressure.
“As scientists, we know that footballs inflated in warm, indoor conditions will deflate naturally when transferred to colder, outdoor conditions,” Morgan says. “But few outside the scientific profession will know that basic scientific fact. By suggesting to the Indianapolis Colts that the footballs might have been purposely deflated, and invite them to raise the issue with the referees, we can get the country talking about the effect of atmospheric conditions on air pressure, a “teachable moment,” so to speak, that I propose we take advantage of.”
Morgan goes on to say that the Super Bowl, as the country’s most-watched television program each year, provides a unique opportunity to showcase the role of physics and its value to society. “The two-week period between the NFC and AFC championship games and the Super Bowl gives us ideal conditions for getting our message out in front of close to 100 million people,” Morgan says. “Did Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady cheat or did air naturally leak out of the footballs? Reporters and TV analysts will be looking for answers from our members, giving us a uniquely large platform on which to showcase just how fascinating science is and how integral it is to everything that we do, including playing football.”
As Morgan predicted, the Indianapolis Colts raised the issue of deflated balls during their game against the Patriots and scientists over the past week have become a familiar presence on TV and in other media, discussing the physics of ball deflation and weighing in on whether the footballs were purposely deflated to make them easier to throw and catch in the rain or deflated naturally because of the weather conditions.
Among the scientists to weigh in are Bill Nye, whose popular Bill Nye the Science Guy show aired on PBS in the 1990s, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a prominent astrophysicist who has served as host of Carl Sagan’s popular science show Cosmos.
Peter Smith, a spokesperson for the American Physicists Association, confirmed that Richard Morgan is director of social media at the association but would not confirm or deny the authenticity of the memo. “Right now we have no comment on any internal memo that was or wasn’t written by a member of the APA staff,” says Smith. “There is naturally a considerable amount of interest in this topic and, while we are glad the American public is talking about ball deflation and learning the difference between gauge pressure and absolute pressure, we do not want to comment until the NFL has completed its investigation.”
This is a work of satire. It is fictional news article not meant to be taken seriously.Photos (some modified): fl and ka (Creative Commons). Not necessarily an endorsed use of images.
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