The Loh Down On Science

Bowling for Turkeys

Why so many turkeys? Don't blame Thanksgiving; we're talking BOWLING turkeys - three strikes in a row. The culprit? Rough balls.

What do you do with too many turkeys?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

And we're not talking about birds but BOWLING --where three strikes in a row is called a "turkey."

Turkeys may be tasty, but the United States Bowling Congress, or USBC, has decided that too many strikes--and too many perfect games--are being thrown

But why? To find out, the USBC conducted a two-year study of bowling balls. They wanted to know why one ball is better than another.

A robotic ball thrower, nicknamed Harry, threw seventy five different balls down a test alley. The alley was monitored by eighteen cameras linked to computers analyzing spin, speed, and direction.

Scientists studied eighteen ball characteristics, from the alley-oil absorption rate to the shape of the ball's inner core.

The real pin-pounding property, it turns out, was the ball's surface roughness. Tiny ridges and valleys created during manufacture give rough balls more traction, better spin control, and produce more strikes.

So, for 2009 competition, no surface imperfections larger than one-point-two-seven microns are allowed.

Next research area, for the USBC: Bowling shoes. So ugly. Why?


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