Boise State University's football team is smoking, and some have wondered whether their blue football field may help explain their success...so much so that, a couple months back, Oregon State painted their practice field blue to help them prepare for playing on it.
Could practicing and playing on blue really give the Broncos a leg up? It seems unlikely.
But it seems less unlikely than it would have a decade or two ago. Not because the Boise football team is doing well -- there are plenty of years when the blue field didn't give them the magic -- but because of the many studies showing the power of color to affect behavior (e.g., see this piece).
Off the cuff, one candidate hypothesis for the benefit of blue might concern something called chromostereopsis, a tendency to overestimate the distance of blue relative to other colors. See the figure below, where the blue appears to be farther than the red. On a blue field, this means a tendency to overestimate the ground distance, which could mean overthrown passes. It would also lead to a perceived mismatch in distance to a receiver and to the ground beneath his feet, which may cause the quarterback confusion.
Whether this applies in the broad-spectrum conditions on the actual field is another matter. In point of fact, I did attempt to walk onto the Bronco's blue field, but practice was under way, and I was politely asked to leave.
But it got me thinking: Surely we can provide a perceptually more powerful field color pattern than simply all-blue! Possibilities are endless, but let's consider just a few:
1. Place an illusion such as the Pinna and Brelstaff illusion onto the field, corrected for perspective (and thus working on viewers only at certain spots). Players running toward the center would briefly feel that the world is spinning.
2. A more subtle idea would be to modulate the density of the artificial turf in such a way that one end of the field is coarse and the other end fine and dense. If the coarse-to-fine transition occurs smoothly, players' perceptions of distance will be altered. For example, when standing on the fine end of the field and looking at players on the coarse end, the viewed players will seem closer (and physically smaller) than they in fact are, potentially leading to an underthrown ball by the quarterback. Viewed from the opposite direction, the downfield players will seem farther (and physically larger) than they in fact are, leading to an overthrown ball.
3. Blurry streaks could be placed on the field, perpendicular to the yard markers. When we move through the world, we get optic streaks on our retina, something that indicates to our brains that we are in motion. If blurry streaks are painted onto the field, the runner's visual field may be tricked into thinking it is moving more quickly than it in fact is...and so the runner will end up moving more slowly. Blurry streaks could also be made via having the home team audience dress in colors as a function of row.
4. Street-artists are famous for their forced-perspective paintings, like that in the photograph below. The obvious painting to do for football is one depicting the opposing quarterback' momma having intimate relations with the home team coach. Sure, it would only be perceptually effective from just one spot on the field, but it would be well worth the wait!
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- 'Dirty Blizzard' Sent 2010 Gulf Oil Spill Pollution To Seafloor
- Case For Moon: Humanity's Gateway To Solar System Exploration, Open Ended, Planetary Protection At Its Heart
- Anti-Science Beliefs On GMOs May Be Due To Knowledge Gap
- Prohibition 2016: Assessing The UK's Psychoactive Substances Act
- Silencing Cholera's Social Media
- Sorry Social Psychology, Mating By Education Level Not Affecting Genetic Make-Up
- Mindfulness Is Not A Waste Of Time
- "Giving poor people cheap energy just makes them subservient to those who control the supply of..."
- "In TVA, the culture problem was solved by fixing the cheap energy one. Including education...."
- "You might be worrying about the wrong problem. Do you know any smart, highly educated people who..."
- "What could be more unscientific than denying people the right to know which ingredients in their..."
- "The good that Trump already does that is good for science is that he widens the PC-strangled overtone..."
- Wind turbines on Galapagos replace millions of liters of diesel since 2007, meet 30 percent of energy needs
- Study shows patients require less painkilling medication after breast-cancer surgery if they have opiate-free anesthesia
- Quiet please in the intensive care unit!
- Premature babies may grow up to have weaker bones
- 90-90-90 HIV initiative would yield 'extraordinary returns' in South Africa