Science Scope

Decoding the dunk: measuring the strength of a slam

Decoding the dunk: measuring the strength of a slam

Posting in Design

With the help of MIT's Media Lab, the NBA has a new net measures just how big that slam dunk really was.

The slam-dunk is one of basketball’s mightiest moves. While it might not be worth the most points on the scoreboard, but it’s worth a ton in court credibility. Even non-basketball fans can appreciate the power and skill that dunking requires, and the NBA capitalizes on the power of the dunk by putting on a Slam Dunk competition every year.

But for a long time there was no real way to measure just how powerful each player’s dunk was. Now, however, the MIT Media Lab has designed a net that can measure the force with which a player dunks, reports Wired.

The trick is in the threads that the net is made of. They’re conductive, so whenever anything touches the net – like a ball being dunked through it – the threads create a current. The size of that current reflects the power of the dunk – which is sent along to a chip behind the backboard and then onwards to the announcers and fans.

The MIT dunk scale goes from zero to 100 “slam force G’s” in which 100 is “about the equivalent of the muzzle energy of a .22 caliber round being fired,” writes Wired. The NBS will probably use this new net and measuring system in their future slam dunk contests – and sports announcers will now be able to include the dunk power in their on screen graphics.

The net won’t account for style – so players who can dunk from a stand still, or do 720 degree turns before scoring, won’t win any extra points with this special net. But now, rather than using a shattered backboard as the metric of a dunk’s strength, fans can rely on the power of science to measure the power of the dunk.

Augmented fabrics, like these nets, are popping up all over. There are gloves made with fibers to allow wearers to still use their touch screens, shopping bags that light up on the inside, t-shirts that can carry phone calls, and a whole community of hackers and designers thinking of new ways to incorporate technology and textiles. In the future these fabrics could be developed into medical devices and wearable computers - changing lives far beyond the NBA's Slam Dunk Competition.

[via Wired]

Photo: Roberto86/Wikimedia Commons

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Rose Eveleth

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Rose Eveleth is a freelance writer, producer and designer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, OnEarth, Discover, New York Times, Story Collider and Radiolab. She holds degrees from the University of California, San Diego and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure