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Football Crazy Computers

A boy practicing bending it like Beckham

When world cup fever grips the nation its good to see that computer scientists are playing their part in the game. Today's football entertainment isn't just about the players on the pitch and the fans in the stadium. Football technology has gone global.

You should have seen it!

The Football World Cup of 2006 has a clever new player on the field: the Internet. The official world cup technical sponsors Avaya and internet company Yahoo are teaming up to provide video highlights of World Cup games over the Net for the first time ever. There are also schemes to allow fans to watch goals on their mobile phones and receive text alerts when their team scores. These new communications technologies mean that we can experience the World Cup in new ways, and you can always be on top of the game wherever you are.

Calling Foul

Getting into the team spirit but with a darker message, a number of web security companies have warned that it's possible that computer viruses could also take advantage of football fever and start to circulate with sporty titles. Email messages which claim to contain must know facts about favourite footballers, or free football screen savers, are just some of the ways that the unscrupulous hackers may try to tempt the unsuspecting football fan to foul up their computer. Hardly sporting!

Compute it like Beckham

"Beckham's right foot...defied the laws of physics"...errr, no.

Footballs can do some very strange things in the right feet, like David Beckham's famous bending of the ball. It's one of the skills, along with his precision that make his free kicks so lethal. The football takes a curved path to confuse the goalkeeper rather than fly in a normal straight line. It is a particularly clever and valuable talent. There is some fascinating physics behind the effect. What happens is that when the ball is kicked properly it starts to spin, and this spin makes the airflow on one side stronger than the other so causing the ball to bend in flight. German physicist Gustav Magnus first observed this effect in 1852, when he was trying to work out why spinning shells and bullets followed a dangerously curvy flight path. Using a technique called computational fluid dynamics (CFD), where a computer is used to model how the flow of air round a spinning football causes the bending, computer scientists hope to be able to improve our understanding of this famous David Beckham trick. Their discoveries can then be applied to teach young footie stars of the future, or at least that is their goal.