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Science of strikes and gutter balls.

Science of strikes and gutter balls

Aerospace engineers who have spent the last few decades perfecting missile launching technology might think their work led only to improved military weapons and spaceships. But it turns out they also have enriched one of America's most popular nonaerobic sports--bowling.

"Bowling has similarities to a missile launch, except we are trying to launch a ball down the lane,' says Thomas P. Kicher, who chairs the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and who has run a "bowling dynamics laboratory' for the last nine years.

Kicher and his students use the mathematical techniques developed for tracking missiles to chart the paths of bowling balls. First, they shine a series of lasers across a bowling lane, and then they roll a ball down and measure its speed and trajectory. They plug those measurements into the aerospace formula to learn how smoothly the ball rolls. A good roll indicates that the ball is well shaped and balanced.

Kicher has other bowling ball tests. He drops balls onto granite slabs to see whether the balls keep their shape. He oscillates the balls inside a pendulum made of three vertical wires to check that their density is uniform. And he weighs the balls to locate their centers of gravity. Much of the work has been funded by the Brunswick Corp. of Muskegon, Mich.

Perhaps the greatest innovation to come out of the lab is the specially balanced ball, designed by Kicher but conceived by bowling pro Carmen Salvino. Unlike an ordinary ball, which holds a weight near the finger and thumb holes--to make up for the lost mass of the holes--Salvino and Kicher's ball has two weights, one near the finger holes and one near the thumb. "People started using this ball in 1980, and it made a great difference in their games,' Kicher says.
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Copyright 1986, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:bowling dynamics laboratory
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 12, 1986
Words:313
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