Monday 13 April 2015

The Science of Pool

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"Unfortunately his balls exploded."

The Science of Pool
Investigations into the
Physics, Psychology & Pharmacology of Pool

Cue Ball Velocity Measured Acoustically
In the early 90's I used Goldwave audio software to look at the waveform of the sound of pool breaks. Knowing the distance between the cue ball and the object ball of the pack, and the time between the sound of the cue hitting the cue ball, to the sound of the cue ball hitting the pack, enabled the velocity of the cue ball to be easily calculated. I then designed a PIC 16F84 circuit and microphone to automatically give a speed readout on an LCD display. This device didn't work well in noisy pool rooms, but my best break was 22.4 mph.

Now an app is available for mobile phones, which does the same thing - Break Speed, website here

Great Balls of Fire
The precursors of pool, billiards and snooker, killed elephants in prodigious numbers. The balls were made of ivory. and the best balls were made from juvenile elephant's tusks, known as scrivelloes.  In 1863 Phelan & Collander, the New York billiards supplier, ran a newspaper ad offering $10,000 to anyone who could find an artificial alternative to ivory for billiard balls. Here's what Michael Phelan had to say in his 1859 book -

John Hyatt, a printer from Albany, was in the habit of soaking his hands in a solution of nitrocellulose in alcohol. When the alcohol evaporated, his hands were protected from paper cuts by a thin, glove-like, flexible film of nitrocellulose. He'd seen the newspaper ad offering $10,000, and had been experimenting in his spare time to find an artificial ivory for balls.

One day Mr. Hyatt was soaking his hands, when he accidentally knocked over the bottle of nitrocellulose solution. He didn't clean up the mess and the next day the pool of spilled liquid had solidified. Finding that the solid was the same density as ivory, his ball making experiments now centred on nitrocellulose.

Successful results followed, he patented the process, and started manufacturing and distribution. Unfortunately his balls exploded.

Research: a National Resource, United States National Resources Committee

The physics of pool is excellently explained in an article by David G. Alciatore, The Amazing World of Billiards Physics

Psychology of Pool

 Never Blame Your Equipment
Photographic evidence from the Australian outback of poor table maintenance

Importance of Concentration, Regardless of Distractions
Winnipeg Free Press photograph

A Thinking Man's Game, Even in the Wild West
Drawing from the Illustrated Police News, 1887; Billiard Archives

Pharmacology of Pool

Alcohol & Pool
Do ten pints of lager inhibit or enhance skill & ability? Experimentation is progressing...
So, in the meanwhile, here's some more about balls -

A Load of Balls

This, on ivory billiard balls,1911 Encyclopædia Britannica-

Kunz on billiard balls 1916 -

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Unrelated to this post, below is an example of
eclectic science esoterica 


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WARNING - Many subjects outlined within this site are extremely dangerous and are provided here for information only. Please don`t experiment with high voltages or chemicals unless you are fully conversant with safe laboratory practices. No liability will be accepted for death, injury or damage arising from experimentation using any information or materials supplied.