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Courtesy: National Science Foundation, NBC Learn and The National Football League

Think you know football? Ok, what's a prolate spheroid?

NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, has teamed up with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Football League (NFL) to produce this 10-part video series focusing on the science behind NFL football.

This groundbreaking project uses the global spotlight of the NFL games to make science more accessible and more interesting to students, by showing how science helps athletes accomplish their goals by exploring concepts from geometry like the Pythagorean Theorem, physics concepts like torque, velocity and accelleration and more.

By the way, prolate spheroid roughly describes the three-dimensional shape of a football.

Science of NFL Football: Vectors

This segment looks at the role vectors play every time an NFL quarterback throws a pass. With the help of former NFL quarterback Joey Harrington, NSF-funded scientists explain how to use vectors to calculate the speed and direction needed for a completed pass.

Science of NFL Football: Punting, Projectiles and Parabolas

This segment looks at the science of projectile motion and parabolas with the help of former NFL punter Craig Hentrich. NSF-funded scientists explain the significance of vertical and horizontal velocity on the trajectory every time an NFL punter kicks a football into the sky.

Science of NFL Football: Nutrition, Hydration & Health

This segment looks at the physically demanding pre-season ritual of NFL training camp. Professor Douglas Casa, head of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut, and athletic trainers from the Pittsburgh Steelers explain what NFL players must do to stay hydrated and replenish the essential nutrients needed to maintain good health during rigorous practices.

Science of NFL Football: Kinematics - Position, Velocity & Acceleration

This segment explores kinematics on the playing field. Scientists Tony Schmitz from the University of Florida and John Ziegert of Clemson University explain how the kinematic concepts of position, velocity and acceleration can be used to define how a running back moves.

Science of NFL Football: Geometric Shapes: Spheres, Ellipses & Prolate Spheroids

In this segment, NBC's Lester Holt explores the prolate spheroid, the three-dimensional shape of a football, and how it helps an NFL quarterback throw a hard, accurate pass.

Science of NFL Football: Newton's First Law of Motion

In this segment, NBC's Lester Holt looks at Newton's First Law of Motion and the role that unbalanced forces play whenever a ball carrier goes head to head with a defender.

Science of NFL Football: Newton's Second Law of Motion

NBC's Lester Holt and former NFL kicker, Morten Andersen, look at what's really behind powerful field goal kicks--Newton's Second Law of Motion.

Science of NFL Football: Newton's Third Law of Motion

NBC's Lester Holt looks at Newton's Third Law of Motion and the role that conservation of momentum plays whenever players collide on the football field, with former NFL linebacker Hardy Nickerson, Tony Schmitz of the University of Florida and Jim Gates of the University of Maryland.

Science of NFL Football: Offensive linemen and torque

NBC's Lester Holt looks at how the physics concepts of torque and center of mass are applied in football by some of the games most massive players--the offensive linemen.

Science of NFL Football: Tackling and the Pythagorean Theorem

In the last segment of this video series, Lester Holt explores the path a defender must take in order to tackle a ball carrier, and how this distance--called the "angle of pursuit"--can be calculated by using the Pythagorean Theorem to find the hypotenuse of a right triangle, and the distance of a defender's angle of pursuit.

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About NBC Learn

NBC Learn is the educational arm of NBC News dedicated to providing resources for students, teachers, and lifelong learners. The online resources NBC Learn has created for the education community leverages nearly 80 years of historic news coverage, documentary materials, and current news broadcasts. Currently two offerings, NBC Learn K12 and NBC Learn Higher Ed, give students and teachers access to thousands of video clips from the NBC News archives, including great historic moments--from the Great Depression to the Space Race to the latest political coverage. NBC Learn also offers primary source materials, lesson plans and classroom planning resources, and additional text and image resources from our content partners. For more information, visit

About the National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2010, its budget is about $6.9 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Additional Resources

NBC Learn | National Science Foundation

NBC Learn K12