Over 500,000 people visited Farnam Street last month to expand their knowledge and improve their thinking. Work smarter, not harder with our free weekly newsletter which offers a collection of time-tested multidisciplinary knowledge you can add to your mental toolbox.


The Physics of Grass, Clay, and Cement

tennis-physics

 

Jonah Lehrer reports:

Amid all this punctiliousness, however, the rulebook contains one glaring omission: There are no rules about the surface of the court. While the boundaries of the space are carefully specified — it must be a rectangle, 78 feet by 27 feet, with a one-inch-wide center service line — there are zero references to the different materials on which the game can be played. It's as if clay, grass, and hard court don't exist, as if the composition of the playing field doesn't matter.

This oversight has profoundly shaped the development of the sport. Because there are no rules about court surfaces, modern tennis is played on a stunning variety of materials, from the crushed brick of Roland Garros to the manicured lawns of Wimbledon. In fact, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the regulatory body overseeing the sport, currently recognizes more than 160 different kinds of tennis courts, including surfaces made of carpet, clay, gravel, concrete, wood, asphalt, and fake grass.

Continue Reading

Jonah Lehrer is the author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist.

Read what you've been missing. Subscribe to Farnam Street via Email, RSS, or Twitter.

Shop at Amazon.com and support Farnam Street