If you’ve ever thrown a ball or dart, you may have noticed that the harder you throw it the more often you miss your target. Well, a new study suggests that your accuracy is, in fact, directly affected by your throwing speed, and physics is to blame.
Photo by Janna.
The study, led by Madhusudhan Venkadesan of Yale and Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan of Harvard, and published in the most recent issue of Royal Society Open Science, used athlete data and mathematical modelling to better understand the physics behind hurling projectiles. Initially, researchers thought that lower accuracy when throwing something fast was caused by human hands not being able to release a projectile at the right moment. An early or late release, after all, greatly affects the projectile’s trajectory.
But this new information also points a finger at the projectile’s overall speed, which can actually affect the trajectory regardless of how perfect your aim is. Basically, even if you release a projectile at precisely the right time, throwing it too fast makes you far less accurate than if you were to throw it slowly.
So, if you’re going to throw something where accuracy is more important than speed — like in darts, basketball, cornhole bean bag toss, beer pong (beirut) and so on — the researchers highly recommend you do it as softly as possible. Toss darts at the dart board with slow deliberate motions. The darts only need to go fast enough to stick in the board. Take your time lining up shots during basketball games if you can — there’s a reason free throw percentages are so high. In fact, according to the researchers, shooting your free throws underhand, or “granny style”, is the most accurate method. And when you go to lob a crumpled piece of paper into the bin at the office, take it nice and easy if you want to impress your cubicle buddy. Slow and steady won’t always win the race, but it will hit the target.