March 28, 2009


A hockey exhibit's cold, hard facts: Yes, Newtonian laws are in play on the ice. 'The Science of Hockey' exhibit in Santa Ana takes a slap shot at explaining them. (Billy Witz, March 28, 2009, LA Times)

The exhibit marries the twin passions of Henry Samueli, an engineering professor who made his fortune developing computer software and spent some of it buying the Ducks. Samueli has donated $2 million of the $2.9 million that has gone into constructing the 3,000-square-foot permanent exhibit.

"We want to use sport to inspire children to think of the science in everything," said Janet Yamaguchi, the museum's vice president of education.

The exhibit attempts to find the science in almost every aspect of hockey, from feeling the weight of uniforms to absorbing the 360 degrees of sound a goalie hears to learning about the physical properties of ice.

Of course, the three most popular displays figure to be the most hands-on: trying to shoot a puck past goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, trying to skate with center Ryan Getzlaf and trying to stop one of winger Corey Perry's slap shots.

The three Ducks were hooked up with sensors and wires that monitored their movements, and then they were filmed extensively while shooting, skating and stopping shots on the ice. The results have been translated into life-size images that are projected onto a screen or wall.

Not that it's an exact science. During a recent tour, the shots that were fired by Perry, coming out of three spots in the wall, were easy enough for a sportswriter to turn away.

But these displays attempt to go beyond blown-up Wii games.

The "You Be the Shooter" display also explains the science of a slap shot, how kinetic energy is transferred from the body to the stick to the puck. "You Be the Goalie" is accompanied by a display that tests reaction times and explains how the brain processes what the eyes see.

A person's math skills, such as percentages and fractions, are tested while he's seated in the penalty box. Answer four questions correctly and the other team doesn't score a power-play goal -- perhaps the most plausible explanation of how George Parros, the Ducks' tough guy, might have earned an economics degree from Princeton.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 28, 2009 7:38 AM
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