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January 23, 2014

Science and Sport Will Intersect at 'Physics of Football' Lecture Jan. 28

topstory3-lgTimothy Gay

The violent collisions on a football field are sometimes characterized as an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. Timothy Gay would quibble with that characterization. Then he could go to a blackboard and explain why this common assertion is mathematically incorrect.

A football and physics nut, Gay will visit Old Dominion to make a presentation on "The Physics of Football" as part of the ODU Presents lecture series on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.

A former collegiate player himself, Gay "taught" what was described as the world's largest physics class from 1999 to 2004, explaining physics concepts via football in short films played on the scoreboard during University of Nebraska Cornhusker games at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

His audience at ODU won't number 78,000 football fans. But those who gather in Webb Center's North Café will hear, in Gay's engaging way, how physics and football intersect. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. RSVP to 683-3116 or www.odu.edu/univevents (event code: TGL14).

Born in Ohio in 1953, Gay was a lineman for the hapless California Institute of Technology Beavers. He wisely earned a degree in physics at the same time, ultimately earning a Ph.D. in experimental atomic physics from the University of Chicago in 1980. His research interests include the scattering of electrons by atomic and molecular targets, and elementary particle physics.

A professor of physics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln since 1993, Gay hit upon the stadium scoreboard lectures as a way to make physics accessible, by connecting it to something many Nebraskans love - Cornhusker football.

Gay's lessons, which featured appearances by Nebraska football luminaries including Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch, covered such topics as Newton's laws of motion, projectile motion, kinematics and the ideal gas law.

NFL Films hired Gay in 2001 to write and appear in a series of five-minute segments for the show "NFL Blast," explaining the game to an international audience. Gay has also appeared on "ABC World News Tonight" and ESPN.

ODU Presents features multidisciplinary speakers that support the university's six colleges' research initiatives and community outreach efforts.