Popular Science

Explore the funky physics at work inside high-end bowling balls

THE WEIRD ANATOMY OF PRO BOWLING BALLS

- BY STAN HORACZEK

No matter how hard you try to spin the house balls at your local bowling joint, they rarely curve. That’s because they are simple spheres built for durability, not fancy moves. But a small handful of companies—among them Storm Bowling—create gear that is surprising­ly complex inside. Precisely shaped, meticulous­ly balanced weight blocks leverage the laws of physics to help skilled alley jockeys throw a strike on most rolls. This clever engineerin­g allows the projectile­s to hook inward as they approach the end of the 60-foot lane, where the invisible oil slick on the boards thins. The spin an expert gives the globe (as fast as 600 rpm) will find purchase there as the friction increases, putting the orb right next to the headpin. Here’s a look at what’s going on under the surface.

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 ?? PHOTOGRAPH­S BY TRAVIS RATHBONE ??
PHOTOGRAPH­S BY TRAVIS RATHBONE
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 ??  ?? The crimson disk—called a weight block—in this roller is taller than it is deep, and heavier on its bottom thanks to that silver circle, known as the slug. Those design decisions create uneven rotational forces, causing this model, the Code Red, to sharply swing from the edge toward the center for a strike. Despite the weird shape, the mass in the Phaze III’s green core is evenly distribute­d, so the sphere travels in a gentle curve through its impact with the pins. Pros call this a “benchmark ball” because they can use its movements to read the oil pattern on a lane during practice and then adjust their form—or equipment choice—for the competitio­n.
The crimson disk—called a weight block—in this roller is taller than it is deep, and heavier on its bottom thanks to that silver circle, known as the slug. Those design decisions create uneven rotational forces, causing this model, the Code Red, to sharply swing from the edge toward the center for a strike. Despite the weird shape, the mass in the Phaze III’s green core is evenly distribute­d, so the sphere travels in a gentle curve through its impact with the pins. Pros call this a “benchmark ball” because they can use its movements to read the oil pattern on a lane during practice and then adjust their form—or equipment choice—for the competitio­n.
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 ??  ?? The red bulges on the Optimus’ symmetrica­l core let bowlers tweak its performanc­e. If they bore their finger holes into the blob’s bumps, rolls will more aggressive­ly hook; if they avoid them, the mass still ensures a nice curve. The model’s heavier versions—up to 16 pounds—will crash through pins with more force, making them more likely to knock out others.
The red bulges on the Optimus’ symmetrica­l core let bowlers tweak its performanc­e. If they bore their finger holes into the blob’s bumps, rolls will more aggressive­ly hook; if they avoid them, the mass still ensures a nice curve. The model’s heavier versions—up to 16 pounds—will crash through pins with more force, making them more likely to knock out others.
 ??  ?? The rotational forces generated by the asymmetric­al chunky green block inside the intense wouldn't be able to influence the orb's trajectory as well if cover couldn’t firmly grip the lane. Crushed mica mixed into the surface of this ball increases friction once it hits dry board near the pinks, creating a hook even for those who throw with less spin.
The rotational forces generated by the asymmetric­al chunky green block inside the intense wouldn't be able to influence the orb's trajectory as well if cover couldn’t firmly grip the lane. Crushed mica mixed into the surface of this ball increases friction once it hits dry board near the pinks, creating a hook even for those who throw with less spin.
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 ??  ?? The Sure Lock’s bright orange, X-shaped mass is composed of heavy iron oxide. That concentrat­es heft at the center, allowing this sphere to spin quickly just after a bowler releases it—similar to the way figure skaters begin whirling faster when they tuck in their arms. The extra rotations help swing the globe back to center in slippery, oil-heavy lanes.
The Sure Lock’s bright orange, X-shaped mass is composed of heavy iron oxide. That concentrat­es heft at the center, allowing this sphere to spin quickly just after a bowler releases it—similar to the way figure skaters begin whirling faster when they tuck in their arms. The extra rotations help swing the globe back to center in slippery, oil-heavy lanes.

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