The fascinating physics behind bowling is a fun science lesson

When an amateur bowler hits the line in front of a lane and ten pins, they usually don’t think of much else but to fling their ball so that it hits their target head-on. But the physics of the game, as professionals know, is as complex as the rules are simple. In a new video, YouTuber and science educator Derek Muller gives us insights into the spins, speeds and angles of the game. And you will probably never see bowling like that.


Laughing Squid picked up on Muller’s new video that he recently posted on his Veritasium YouTube channel. For those unfamiliar with it, Muller is popular for throwing deep scientific insights into random, interesting questions about the world. The YouTuber, for example, found answers to the questions “Is dust mainly skin?”. and “Why do scorpions shine under UV light?”


In this new video, Muller takes a (very) close look at the physics underlying bowling. Throughout the video, the YouTuber shows everything from making bowling balls to the perfect shot. Double hint: find a low inertia ball and aim directly to the right or left of the headpin.

Speaking of which, Muller shows in the video that the ideal angle to meet a standard arrangement of pins is six degrees. In other words, if you throw a bowling ball straight over the line, it will be at zero degrees. To throw it at a six-degree angle, you’ll need to find a way to attack the pins “from the front” but from a little to the side. This is where “hooking” the ball for professionals comes into play.

A visualization that shows a glowing line that dictates where a person should throw a bowling ball in order to get a perfect shot.


Muller covers pretty much everything else in the world of bowling physics, including a lot about oils. It turns out that bowling, as most of us know it, wouldn’t be possible without a lot of oil on lumber. In fact, the game would be a lot more difficult without the oil coating; especially when people were still playing with the relatively “spiky” balls of today. Although even with perfect conditions and Albert Einstein as coach, luck would still play a major role.

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