From October 9 – 13. 2013 many of the AIM staff were volunteering at a golf tournament, the Frys.com open. This is a PGA tour event and is a benefit to many charities including AIM. One of the days was designated AIM day to highlight the activities at AIM and one of the things the tournament directors asked us to do was make up a math+golf related quiz.
Now, we, like probably most mathematicians, don’t really think to much about the game of golf, but the quiz made us do a little investigating. One of the things we discovered was a wonderful talk by Doug Arnold, who does think quite a bit about golf! The talk, “Mathematics that Swings: the Math Behind Golf” is on YouTube.
This is a wonderful talk that starts off with some simple algebra and ends with hard problems in computation. Arnold discusses aspects such as mathematical models of a golfer’s swing based on a double pendulum, the impact of the club on the ball, and the effect of dimples on the flight of the ball. This last topic is quite interesting. Although the weight and diameter are set by the rules, the number and configuration of dimples is not, and no optimal configuration is known. It is, however, roughly understood how the dimples make the balls travel farther.
It may be a stretch to think of the mathematics of golf as an MPE topic, but it does reinforce the idea that mathematics is everywhere and the video is entertaining.