Forrest Gump, eat your heart out. While Gump famously practiced against himself, Olympic bound players today have a more imposing, less predictable, training partner: robots. The Paddle Palace 980-e can fire balls to 11 different locations at up to 111 mph at a frequency as high as 95 balls per minute. How’s that for practice makes perfect? The two wheel design allows spin and speed to be controlled separately. Players can design sequences of up to 50 shots and save the patterns for future sessions or let the machine fire at random. The robot can be yours for the bargain price of $1,399. But, hey, that includes free shipping, 10 free balls and a 30 day money back guarantee.
Clocked close to 70 mph, these little celluloid suckers can move. The seemingly simple ping pong ball is subject to quite a bit of poking and prodding before it’s sanctioned for tournament usage (more than 60 approved currently). The basic specs are that balls should be 40 mm in diameter and weigh 2.7 grams. The diameter was increased earlier this decade from 38 mm to 40 mm to slow the game down for audiences (complaints of neck spasms we assume). Only white and orange balls are allowed and construction must be completed with a single seam.
Prior to testing, balls are kept in a room at 23 degrees Celsius and 50 percent relative humidity for at least three days. Bounce is tested by mechanically releasing a ball from 305 mm onto a steel plate and measuring the rebound using a digital camera (240 mm – 260 mm acceptable, figure the COR out yourself). Balls are rolled down a 100 mm long incline at 14 degrees to quantify the ‘veer’. The hardness of the ball is measured using a Zwick tester that pushes a 20 mm pin into the ball. Why so meticulous? Well, as any college kid with a ping pong table and pile of red Solo cups can tell you: not all balls are created equal.
Special thanks to Judy Hoarfrost, one of the original Ping Pong Diplomats, for her suggestions.
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Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.