## The Magnus Effect: From Football to Flight

In 1997 during a football match between Brazil and France a Brazilian player named Roberto Carlos scored an “impossible goal”. With no direct line to the goal it seemed unreasonable for him to even attempt for goal 35 meters away, yet with with a good run up and calculated strike he sent the ball flying towards out of bounds, passed the free-kick wall, before curving back into the net, giving brazil the lead. This shot made the 21-year-old player a household name in the sport and left spectators amazed. It seems to defy Newton’s first law of motion, that states: “an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” The ball’s change in direction meant that must have been some force acting upon the ball causing it to curve back on target. This phenomenon is called the Magnus Effect, named after Heinrich Gustav Magnus who described it in 1852, although it was first documented 200 years earlier by Isaac Newton when playing tennis at Cambridge College.

As the ball moves and spins through the air one side is spinning with the direction of air flow and the other against. The side where air moves opposing the direction of spin causes high pressure. The area where air is moving in the same direction as its spin, the deflected air creates an area of lower pressure. The makes the ball act as a wing as is moves from an area of high pressure to an area of lower pressure, which causes the ball to move in the direction of spin, curving into the goal.

The Magnus Effect affects all rotating balls or cylinders flying through the air, making it an important aspect in ball sports like football, tennis and golf. Nevertheless the Magnus Effect has found several industrial applications in the past making ships sail without sails and planes fly without wings. The image below is a sail boat without sails, instead is has large spinning cylinder called ‘Flettner Rotors’ that deflect cross winds, using the Magnus Effect, to propel the ship forward. Even nowadays there are hybrid ships with flettener rotors in decrease diesel consumption improving efficiency.

Flettner Rotor Sail Ship https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotor_ship#/media/File:Buckau_Flettner_Rotor_Ship_LOC_37764u.jpg

This idea took to the skies in the early 20th century. The image below is that of a wingless plane, where its wings have been replaced with spinning cylinder. Using the Magnus Effect the cylinders generate more lift than traditional wings, however they do generate a lot more drag making them impractical for aviation. Nowadays the only planes utilizing flettner rotors are small remote controlled model planes.

Flettner Rotor PLane
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flettner_airplane#/media/File:Flettner_Rotor_Aircraft.jpg

From the football field to the seas, understanding  the Magnus Effect gives for spectacular sport and ingenious design, amazing spectators and increasing efficiency.

## Meditation, is it a waste of time?

For thousands of years’ people have practiced meditation for spiritual, emotional and physical well being, yet without much evidence of its effects. It is known that meditation can relieve stress, lower blood pressure and lift someone’s mood. But it is only in the last 15 years have neuroscientists taken a serious look at the changes in brain structure underlying some of meditations benefits.

Image from: bulletproofexec.com

Like during everything we do, meditation rewires our neural circuits, pruning away the least used connections and strengthening the ones we exercise the most. Studies looking for signs of these changes focus on ‘mindfulness meditation’, which challenges people to keep their attentions fixed on their thoughts and sensations in the present moment. Earlier on, scientists acknowledge that many of these studies are small and not ideally designed. But now, researches have gathered enough evidence to be confident that their findings are not just a fluke. Experiments suggest that Buddhist monks have more robust connection between scattered regions of their brains, which allows for more synchronized communication. Expert meditators also seem to develop an especially wrinkly cortex (the brains outer layer), which we depend on for abstract thought and introspection. Several studies have confirmed that meditation can increase the volume and density of the hippocampus, which is crucial for memory.

Studies show that 10-20 minutes of meditation a day sharpens the mind. When scientists compared the brains of the monks to those of new meditators, they found the region of the brain associated with empathy to be much more pronounced in the monks. These studies also show that prolonged meditation can alter your brainwave frequencies, exhibiting higher levels of Alpha waves that help reduce feelings of negative mood, tension and sadness.

In an 8-week study meditators showed increase in the density of grey matter in brain regions involved in learning, memory processing and emotion regulation. While in the amygdala, which deals with stress blood pressure and fear, grey matter decreased. In these studies, meditators scored higher on tests of attention and working memory, which is the ability to store and manipulate information in one’s mind. Although areas of the brain involved in sustaining attention deteriorate as we age, meditation counteracts this decay.

Meditation not only affects the mind but the body as a whole. In a study where both meditators and non-meditators were given the flu virus, meditators had produced a greater number of anti-bodies and had increased immune function. Meditation also showed advantages on the cellular level where lower levels of stress increased the function of the enzyme telomerase that counteract the shortening of DNA telomeres, which are linked to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and aging.

Of course meditation is not a substitute for other medical advice or a healthy life style, but much like hitting the gym can grow your muscles and increase your overall health, it seems like meditation is a way to workout your brain with extra health benefits.