Team with Indian-origin researchers crack science behind the perfect throw

Scientists, including those of Indian origin, have mathematically calculated the optimal strategy for the perfect throw – be it a dart, a basketball or even a crumpled piece of paper. In their study, they experimented to find the best methods to improve speed, accuracy and target direction for throwing objects.

The study, authored by Madhusudhan Venkadesan from Yale and L Mahadevan from Harvard University, on ‘Optimal strategies for throwing accurately’ tried through iterative data gathering to create a model to explain the most efficient trajectories of thrown objects.

Representative image.
Representative image. Photo courtesy: Pixabay

“By analysing how parabolic trajectories propagate errors, we show how to devise optimal strategies for a throwing task demanding accuracy. Our calculations explain observed speed–accuracy trade-offs, preferred throwing style of overarm versus underarm, and strategies for games such as dart throwing, despite having left out most biological complexities,” the report stated.

The researchers looked into the physics behind releasing a projectile with the human arm in a series of calculations and concluded that faster throws tend to be less accurate. This is because the ball travels in a nearly straight line, so any errors in the angle at which the object is released tend to be amplified, they said.

"What we find is that almost the slowest arc is often the most accurate," said Venkadesan in his study. In sports such as basketball or darts, the strategy depends on conditions and the trade-off needed between speed and accuracy, researchers said.

For example, experienced darts players throw overarm at about 5.5 metres per second, optimally releasing the dart 17 to 37 degrees before the arm becomes vertical.

On the cricket pitch, fielders are more likely to strike the wicket with a fast underarm throw.

The study was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science and can be found here.