When you simply drop a basketball, we anticipate that it will generally just fall straight to the ground. However, this experiment proves that when a basketball is dropped from a substantial height and with a little backspin, the results are completely different.
Science and engineering YouTube channel, Veritasium, decided to conduct their basketball experiment off of the Gordon Dam. The Gordon Dam is a high-reaching structure that towers 415 feet off of the ground.
First, the researchers simply dropped a basketball from the top of the Gordon Dam. The ball, as expected, fell to the ground only slightly redirected due to the breeze. However, when they added a little backspin to the basketball, the results were completely unexpected!
In the next experiment, the guys gave the basketball a bit of backspin. This changed the course of the basketball plunge entirely! The reason for this is a physics law known as the Magnus effect, where a ball or cylinder-shaped object will curve away from its principal flight path.
When the ball is dropped with a backspin, the basketball almost appears as if it is soaring through the air.
Instead of falling directly down, the ball ends up curving with the air and making a more gradual descent until it eventually skips against the water.
The Magnus Effect has been used for ship propulsion and even tested in airborne wind energy generation systems.