Do helium filled footballs travel further than footballs filled with ordinary air? Two experiments were conducted by members of the media in Columbus, Ohio to investigate this question. The experiment conducted using two different footballs, one of which was filled with helium while the other was filled with ordinary air. Each football was kicked four times with the wind and four times against the wind. The results of this study seem striking, the lighter helium filled football went much farther when the wind was at the kickers back, but did not perform so well into the wind.
The helium filled football traveled an average of ten yards farther with the wind and an average of five yards less against the wind than its air filled counterparts. This all came about in1993, Auburn University played Mississippi State University in football. Auburn was set up to punt the football. The football was kicked and eyed in disbelief as it sailed an estimated seventy one yards through the air.
Shocked, Mississippi State coaches claimed the football was filled with helium in order to produce such a kick.
The football was immediately seized by officials and was later tested to see if it had been filled with helium. No helium was found in the football. A single outlier could account for the observed differences. Observing differences in small scales studies are often attributable to chance, if there is considerable variability in the individual results. To determine if there is considerable variability in the data or if there are outliers, people would like to see the actual data. It is difficult to evaluate the results of a study of you are not given the actual date.
We don’t know if any randomization was used in the study. One would want to control for difference in the footballs perhaps by using several footballs. Mostly all the kicker for both helium and air filled footballs show a lot of variability with greater variability with the helium filled football than the air filled footballs. They mentioned in the histogram that the pair of kicks comparing a given trial might be viewed as a matched pair. It is often valuable to examine the difference in the pair of values comprising the matched pair.
It is hard to see that there is any marked advantage to kicking a football filled with helium versus one filled with ordinary air. There is weak evidence of a slight advantage for the helium filled football. The results do not substantiate the study, which seem to suggest a much clearer advantage to the helium filled football. There does not seem to be much evidence that a helium filled football outperforms an air filled football. The knowledge could effect the way the kicker kicked the football, kicking the helium filled football more smoothly than the air filled ball when the wind was at his back, while lunging at the helium filled football when kicking into the wind.
A smoother rhythm generally produces a longer kick. After hearing all the results, skeptics from The Columbus Dispatch decided to conduct their own experiment with help of a team of physicists and chemists from The Ohio State University, by doing this experiment they learned that the kicks for both the helium and the ordinary air filled footballs show a lot of variability with the helium filled football than the ordinary air filled football.
In the histogram the distributions of both are slightly skewed to the left but do have a rough bell shape. The center of the helium filled football data seems a bit larger than that for the air filled football. The difference is small and the variability is the data makes it hard to assert that there is any marked advantage to kicking the helium filled football.