Deflategate: A Real Application of the Ideal Gas Law
Department of Chemistry
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
This case study involves analysis of data collected as part of the National Football League's investigation into the New England Patriots allegedly deflating footballs to gain a competitive advantage in a 2015 playoff game. The scandal and subsequent investigation is colloquially known as "Deflategate." After viewing a couple of brief video clips introducing the story, students are asked to analyze the relevant data using the Ideal Gas Law and determine if the data can be explained using scientific principles or if it is likely that the Patriots participated in game misconduct. The case study emphasizes applying the Ideal Gas Law to help answer a real-world question along with critically analyzing data and the manner in which data is collected. The activity is intended to be used by high school and introductory college chemistry courses.
- To explain kinetic molecular theory.
- To convert units to absolute pressure and temperature units.
- To apply the ideal gas law in a real-world scenario.
- To use basic scientific principles in order to make decisions.
- To work with real-world data that has uncertainty.
- To recognize flaws in experimental design and emphasize the importance of good experimental design.
KeywordsIdeal Gas Law; data analysis; pressure; psi; football; NFL; deflategate; PSI; cheating; Patriots; Brady
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsAnalysis (Issues), Directed, Discussion
Subject HeadingsAnalytical Chemistry | Chemistry (General) | Physics | Physical Chemistry |