There’s nothing quite like an impromptu “Kobe!” (RIP) followed by shooting a successful hoop, but that same glorious moment can become a source of hot shame when your total lack of talent results in the ball hitting the hoop with a dissatisfying thud. Now, thanks to science, a YouTuber has created a hoop with a backboard that rebounds the basketball into the net, to use his words, "a lot more often." That's good enough for us.
Created by YouTuber Shane Wighton, who leads an engineering team making 3D printers at Formlabs, the lack-of-talent-defying equipment uses a curved backboard design that bounces the ball into the hoop no matter where it lands on the board. Wighton designed the backboard using computer software that simulates ball throws in every possible direction and angle.
He began perfecting his design for a curved backboard by mapping out where the ball might hit as an ellipsis on an illustration of the backboard and if it would go in if it hit this point. He then used the computer program to manipulate the board's shape and curvature so that the trajectories of the balls bouncing off the ellipsis points all ended up in the same place – the hoop. The final design created the inward turning fruit-bowl-like shape described by an elliptic paraboloid.
Once his digital design was settled, he created a 3D mesh, which was used as a guide to carve blocks of wood. When the first design was assembled, Wighton found it was flawed as the backboard was deflecting the ball to the front of the hoop, causing it to bounce out rather than in. He realized that his initial calculations hadn’t taken the size of the ball into account, and rather than starting from scratch fixed the issue by inching the hoop forward a couple of inches. Speed was also a factor in the success of the rebounding hoops, which is perhaps why Wighton settled for the more conservative claim to fame of knocking the ball in "a lot more often." But, with a routine speed, as the video shows the results were pretty good!
You can see the physics wizardry unfolding in the video below:
The end result is a backboard that can make even the most hopeless of hoop shooters look like a pro – so long as you don’t look too closely at its shape and can actually hit the backboard (if you can't, maybe try chess). The achievement is a shining example of how it’s possible to invent your way out of a lack of talent. God bless you, science.