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Ready for some football science?

A video segment shows students and sports fans how projectile motion and parabolas play a role in football.
A video segment shows students and sports fans how projectile motion and parabolas play a role in football.NBC Universal

Scientists and sports stars are taking to the field with a 10-part video series that explains the physics and biology behind football, just in time for today's start of the NFL regular season.

The "Science of NFL Football" series is presented by NBC Learn, in partnership with the National Science Foundation and the National Football League. The project follows up on "Science of the Olympic Winter Games," a similar educational venture that made a splash earlier this year.

"To paraphrase what President Kennedy once said — when we watch or play a football game, we feel like we've taken part in it," Ed Seidel, assistant director of NSF's Mathematical and Physical Sciences directorate, said in a news release. "But in this series we hope to achieve more than that. We want students to feel they've taken part in understanding the physical principles underlying the action on the field."

NBC News President Steve Capus said his network was "extremely excited" to participate in a project "that combines science education and a sport that so many kids know and love."

The NFL is excited as well: Several sports stars play starring roles in the videos, including Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, Dolphins place kicker Dan Carpenter and former Saints running back Deuce McAllister. "When we can energize our students to learn through physical fitness and sports, it's win-win for everyone," McAllister said.

The series' scientific stars aren't too shabby, either. The scientists explaining the principles behind the game include physicists and engineers, a mathematician and a nutritionist. A high-speed Phantom camera captures the athletes' movements at up to 2,000 frames per second to show Newton's Laws of Motion at work. Lesson plans to accompany the videos are available via Lessonopoly.

One video spends a lot of time talking about vectors, as they apply to punting a football or throwing the ball to a receiver in motion. I guess that's a teachable moment for classical mechanics. There's also a spot about nutrition for football players, which includes the fact that they burn 5,000 to 10,000 food calories per day (as opposed to the norm of 2,200 to 3,000 calories per day). So it's pretty basic stuff, well-suited for getting kids who are football fans fired up about physics and physiology as well.

You'll find plenty more about the science of football on the Web. Here's a nice six-pack to sample while you're watching tonight's game:

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