News & Media

Super Bowl Science

This weekend is Super Bowl Sunday – the New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons – but who will win? Well, we don’t know obviously, but we do know a few interesting bits of science and maths about it!

First up, some fun number facts:

  • This year’s Super Bowl LI (that’s 51 in Roman numerals!) will be broadcast in 25 languages to 160 million people in 180 countries worldwide
  • $55 million will be spent on snacks for Super Bowl Sunday
  • 1.25bn chicken wings and 15,000 tons of potato chips will be consumed
  • Most people will consume all their snacks within 15 mins of kick-off
  • The average American will consume 50 grams of fat in party food snacks
  • 1.5 million people will call in sick the next day
  • The Super Bowl is the most coveted and expensive TV event for advertising, with hotly anticipated first showings of major brands’ new adverts and movie trailers
  • 48 minutes of advertisements and 100 million viewers equals 9,000 man years of commercial watching – phew!


So, what’s science got to do with the Super Bowl, then?

Science is not just about wearing a white lab coat and calculating equations, it also has a surprisingly large role to play in sport too. After all, science is fundamentally about standing back, observing how things are working (or not), figuring out a theory why that might be and then experimenting to see the different results you get. A bit like a professional football coach does really!

Take the Super Bowl, for example, now American football coaches are serious about strategy. Different positions will be given different tasks, the models will be put to the test on the field and then repeated again and again. A typical NFL game will run to more than 120 plays, so there will be constant testing and updating. Each player will be thinking all the time about what they should do next – whether they should act or react – and what the consequences might be depending on what their opponent does. Only the result will tell…


And while you’re waiting for the big game to start, here are some fun science facts for you (Credit: Phil Plait – Super Bowl Science 2013 – Bad Astronomy):

  • A football has about 10 grams or 2 gallons of air inside it before it is compressed
  • The pressure inside a football is 27.5 PSI, or just under twice what we experience on Earth
  • On Venus, the pressure (which is 90 times that on Earth) would crush a fully inflated football
  • If a fully inflated football was converted completely into energy, it would detonate with a yield of 9 million tons of TNT
  • A perfectly thrown football will take about 4-5 seconds to cross the length of a football field
  • Catching a football needs good reflexes – for a good throw, it moves through it’s own length in 1/80th second
  • An average football player running at 20mph has 20 times the momentum of a 50 calibre rifle bullet in flight
  • The average human brain weighs about 3.3 times that of a football
  • An average football is 3.7 times the volume of a human brain
  • So, the average human brain is 12 times denser than a football!


So, remember maths and science can be useful in relation to sport too. There are lots of careers that make use of skills in both these areas. You could be a sports scientist, sports engineer, sport statistician or even a sports manager!