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Videos demonstrate some of the science behind football

Monday, November 15, 2010; 5:26 PM

Gridiron lessons
Parabolas of punting "Science of NFL Football" (NBC Learn)

When football commentators speak, they don't often mention the Pythagorean theorem, but perhaps they should. A new series of videos created by NBC, the National Football League and the National Science Foundation explains some of the science behind football. The 10 slick videos, available for free at www.nbclearn.com/nfl and accompanied by lesson plans for grades 6 through 9, are a smart way to get students interested in complicated topics. Hosted by broadcast journalist Lester Holt, the segments include interviews with scientists as well as with players such as former Redskin Antwaan Randle El and retired running back Marshall Faulk. Lessons include the role of parabolas in punting, how defenders instinctively use the Pythagorean theorem to prevent touchdowns and why the shape of a football - a prolate spheroid - helps quarterbacks throw spirals.

Technology
Revolutionary robots "Dean of Invention" (Planet Green)

On the new television series "Dean of Invention," scientist Dean Kamen travels from lab to lab in search of new technologies "that will solve humanity's hardest problems." Kamen is an inventor who holds more than 400 patents, including the Segway, an insulin pump and a robotic prosthetic arm. In the episode "Robot Revolution," Kamen and his co-host, Joanne Colan, encounter three cutting-edge robots: a goofy-looking, four-legged robot designed to help soldiers in combat; another, inspired by a caterpillar, which can crawl through tiny spaces to find people trapped in rubble after a disaster; and Bina, which "aspires" to be the first robot to earn a doctorate. "Dean of Invention" airs Friday nights at 10 p.m. on Planet Green. The Nov. 19 episode features electric cars.

- Rachel Saslow

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