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The physics of football — soccer science may change the way you watch the #WorldCup

Explore the science behind the sport (with free access to research articles)

Professor Constantino Tsallis, PhD, Editor of Physica A, "training for the World Cup." He lives in Rio de Janeiro.People from around the world are joined together by a sport some claim dates back to the world of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Even individuals who are not every-day fans are finding it hard to resist.

But if you think it's only a game, think again. A lot of science is going on behind the scenes. Our publishing team has put together a special issue of physics papers directly related to the world of soccer.

Our Brazil-based Physica A Editor Professor Constantino Tsallis – an avid player and aficionado – describes the sport in eloquent terms:

It is one of three human activities — sports, arts and sciences — through which athletes, artists, and scientists  can show to all men and women something universal, something in which different people can collaborate and enrich all together.

To illustrate the connection between science and sport, Dr. Tsallis refers to the paper "Regularities in football goal distributions" in Physica A, in which authors L.C.  Malacarne and R.S. Mendes perform an empirical study of the distributions of goals in league football championships in Italy, England, Spain and Brazil. After describing the elements of physics examined in the article, he states:

Dynamics, collisions, fluid mechanics, statistics, translations, rotations, all kinds of effects, stochasticity, relaxation, heat, wind, rain – a full feast for science to which the present special issue is dedicated: enjoy!

We hope you will enjoy these papers; your view on the world of soccer may never be the same again.

Special Issue: Soccer in Physics

Elsevier has made the following articles freely available for three months, until September 30, 2014, in this Virtual Special Issue on Soccer in Physics:

Hidden power law patterns in the top European football leagues
Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Volume 392, Issue 21, 1 November 2013, Pages 5376-5386
Sergio Da Silva, Raul Matsushita, Eliza Silveira

Regularities in football goal distributions
Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications,
Volume 286, Issues 1–2, 15 October 2000, Pages 391–395
L.C. Malacarne, R.S. Mendes

Universality in the distance between two teams in a football tournament
Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Volume 398, 15 March 2014, Pages 56-64

Roberto da Silva, Silvio R. Dahmen

A power-law distribution for tenure lengths of sports managers
Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Volume 370, Issue 2, 15 October 2006, Pages 697-703
Toke S. Aidt, Bernard Leong, William C. Saslaw, Daniel Sgroi

Football goal distributions and extremal statistics
Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Volume 316, Issues 1–4, 15 December 2002, Pages 615-624J
Greenhough, P.C Birch, S.C Chapman, G Rowlands, Football goal distributions and extremal statistics

A simple non-Markovian computational model of the statistics of soccer leagues: Emergence and scaling effects
Computer Physics Communications, Volume 184, Issue 3, March 2013, Pages 661-670
Roberto da Silva, Mendeli H. Vainstein, Luis C. Lamb, Sandra D. Prado 

Locally oriented potential field for controlling multi-robots
Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation, Volume 17, Issue 12, December 2012, Pages 4664-4671
Roseli A.F. Romero, Edson Prestes, Marco A.P. Idiart, Gedson Faria


Elsevier Connect Contributor

Charon Duermeijer, PhDDr. Charon Duermeijer (@duermeijer) is Publishing Director and Head of Elsevier Physics Journals. She has a PhD in geophysics from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

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