A version of this story appeared in the Review of Scholarly Activities.
It’s unnerving to see a physics professor hold a gun against someone’s forehead, even if the gun is fake and his finger is off the trigger.
Dr. Eric Goff sounds nervous, too. “Tell me when you’re filming,” he says, a tense sound in his voice.
Suddenly, the man in front of Dr. Goff swings his arms upward. He has a hand on the gun within 0.8 seconds, and 0.03 seconds later he has shoved the gun over his head. It takes him only 0.17 seconds to spin the gun clockwise (which would break a trigger finger) and take control of the weapon.
The entire move took just 1.09 seconds. If Dr. Goff had been a real attacker with a real gun, he would be dumbfounded. (And screaming from a broken finger.)
We know those timestamps because Dr. Goff recorded the footage and analyzed it, frame by frame, for his upcoming book about the physics of Krav Maga, an Israeli self defense system that he practices. Over the past decade, he has become widely known for his expertise on the physics of major sports competitions — most notably the Tour de France and the World Cup. Sports journalists call him when they need someone to explain how athletes compete against the laws of physics.
Dr. Goff never planned on this being his expertise. “It chose me,” he said. After he published a paper about the Tour de France with one student in 2004, other students asked to help him continue the research. Every summer, he and his students apply physics to predict Tour de France winning times with uncanny accuracy.
This year, Dr. Goff added podcasting to his repertoire. He is a regular guest on Playing with Science, part of the StarTalk podcast network started by Neil deGrasse Tyson. His work on Playing with Science led to a series of live Sunday broadcasts on the TuneIn internet radio network, in which he analyzed astounding NFL plays.
In the classroom, Dr. Goff’s work is about helping students become scientists. His sports physics work, though, is about helping the world appreciate science, starting with sports fans. “They start thinking about these athletes they love and why they’re able to do so well. Scientists might be able to help explain that,” he said. “Any way we can get people thinking about science in areas of their life that they don’t normally think about it — such as sports — it’s going to help the general public.”
Podcasting episodes featuring Eric Goff
Playing with Science
- Season 1, Episode 0 (January 25, 2017): Welcome to Playing with Science
- Season 1, Episode 2 (February 8, 2017): The Science of “The Catch”
- Season 1, Episode 3 (February 15, 2017): The Physics of the Tour de France
- Off-Season, Episode 4 (May 11, 2017): The Art of the Hail Mary
- Off-Season, Episode 7 (May 31, 2017): Cosmic Queries: The Physics of Soccer
- Season 2, Episode 3 (July 12, 2017): Extended Classic: The Physics of the Tour de France
- Season 2, Episode 11 (September 6, 2017): Cosmic Queries: Tennis Special Edition
- Season 2, Episode 12 (September 13, 2017): The Immaculate Reception
- Season 2, Episode 13 (September 20, 2017): Martial Arts — Fight Like a Physicist
- Season 2, Episode 18 (October 25, 2017): World Series Throwback Special
- Season 2, Episode 26 (December 20, 2017): Extended Classic: The Immaculate Reception
- Season 2, Episode 27 (December 27, 2017): Extended Classic: The Science of “The Catch”
No Huddle (on the TuneIn network)