A week ago, it was probably a safe bet that no one was expecting to have Neil deGrasse Tyson weigh in on a Seahawks play by referencing the Galilean transformation, yet here we are.
A day after Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he reached out to Neil deGrasse Tyson, the renowned astrophysicist responded with a tweet to his more than 10 million Twitter followers. On the play in question, Russell Wilson threw what at full speed looked to be a backward pass to Mike Davis well past the line of scrimmage. Replays indicated the ball actually may have drifted forward due to Wilson’s forward momentum even though Davis was trailing several yards behind his quarterback, but the play was allowed to stand and the Eagles didn’t challenge the play.
“The lateral Russell Wilson threw to Mike Davis in Sunday’s Seahawks-Eagles game was a legit ‘Galilean Transformation,’” deGrasse wrote. “In their reference frame, the ball went backwards. It’s not their fault they ran forward faster than the ball.”
So what’s Galilean transformation? Well according to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Galilean transformations, also called Newtonian transformations, set of equations in classical physics that relate the space and time coordinates of two systems moving at a constant velocity relative to each other. Adequate to describe phenomena at speeds much smaller than the speed of light, Galilean transformations formally express the ideas that space and time are absolute; that length, time, and mass are independent of the relative motion of the observer; and that the speed of light depends upon the relative motion of the observer.”
That’s a much more scientific way of explaining what Carroll and everyone else saw on the play.
“It looked like guys running really fast, and he pitched the ball backwards, just like he’s supposed to, and the speed of the ball that was traveling with the ball with the ball carrier at the time was passed along to the football, so it all just happened, everything moved,” Carroll said Monday. “I just want to see what Dr. Neil has to say about that, try to help you guys out.
“It clearly looked like he pitched the ball backwards, but everybody kept moving, so we’ll see what happens.”
And Carroll’s call to Tyson wasn’t a random cold call; Tyson visited Seahawks headquarters last fall while in Seattle for a lecture.
“Well I wouldn’t say he’s a close personal friend, but he did visit here, we had an afternoon together,” Carroll said. “He really likes football, so I felt like that’s enough of an open ticket to go ahead and give him a call on something like this. He’s kind of like the national resident guru on stuff like this. I’m counting on him responding before long so we can put it out there to him.”
A day later, Carroll got his response. It was, as everyone surely was suspecting, a “legit Galilean transformation.”
Game action photos from the Seahawks' 24-10 victory over the Eagles in Week 13 at CenturyLink Field.