Stories tagged soccer

This video shows the evolution of coordinated behavior of simulated robot soccer players. In the simulation, each soccer player is controlled by a neural network. The neural networks are evolved using an evolutionary algorithm, so generation after generation the strategy improves.
The corresponding paper "Evolving neural network controllers for a team of self-organizing robots" is available at

Have scientists finally found a Rock n' Roll gene? Not really, but researchers have made some interesting discoveries about the genetic basis of birdsongs, which are passed down from generation to generation through social interaction much in the same way that you or I learn to talk, sing, dance, cook or create. When the authors of a new study on the transmission of birdsong behaviors in zebra finches isolated and raised birds in silence, they expected them to sing off-key. While the mating songs of these 'untrained' birds were much less appealing to the opposite sex, after several generations the untrained lineage produced offspring that were able to sing just like those in the wild. You can listen to the experiment here. This news has left researchers wondering where birdsongs originally began, and to what extent cultural behaviors are hard wired. While zebra finches and humans are only very distant relatives, researchers think we may be able to learn about human culture and genetics from studies like these. After all, as the authors point out, our human cultures (including language, music and a whole host of other things) are very different, but they all share common elements across the globe. In the end, these cultural underpinnings may turn out to be part of our biology.

You've probably never thought about this before, but catfish and soccer balls don't mix well. Read this to find out why.


Get a kick: Is soccer better exercise compared to jogging? That's the question posed by Danish researchers in a recent study. (Flickr photo by probek)
Get a kick: Is soccer better exercise compared to jogging? That's the question posed by Danish researchers in a recent study. (Flickr photo by probek)
I know at least one regular Science Buzz contributor will be ecstatic over this latest bit of health news. So who showed the most personal health improvement when you compare soccer players to joggers to couch potatoes?

That was the question posed by Danish researchers who conducted a 12-week study of 37 men with similar health profiles going into the study. One third of the men played soccer for recreation over the course of the study, one third jogged and one third (the group I’d have liked to have been in) were couch potatoes.

After 12 weeks, here’s what they found out: Soccer players showed the most personal health improvement. Their body fat percentage went down 3.7% while their muscle mass increased 4.5 pounds. Joggers' fat percentage went down 2 percent and their muscle mass did not change significantly. Obviously, the couch potatoes health benchmarks got worse.

And through questions posed to the participants, researchers learned that soccer players felt less tired than the joggers after exercising as they were having more fun participating in that activity.

A lot of that makes a lot of common sense, but there is actually more science at play. The head of the study said soccer is a great exercise to improve health because soccer players get a better workout made up of intense bursts of activity. During those bursts, their hearts were pumping at up to 90 percent efficiency, a level that the joggers never came close to approaching.

Of course, us couch potatoes get a great workout for our fingers on the remote control. Talk about burst of energy, there’s nothing that moves my fingers faster than five or six bad channels in a row!

So what do you think? Is soccer better exercise than jogging? Is there another form of physical activity that’s even better? What’s the best workout? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

And you can also weigh in with your thoughts about soccer on another Science Buzz section…is soccer the most exciting sport to watch? Check it out by clicking here.

The Pan American Health Organization is so alarmed that it has warned fans from the Americas to get immunised before leaving for Germany. New Scientist magazine


Keeper: Image courtesy various visual stuff.

Earlier I wrote a blog post where mathematicians had determined that soccer was the most exciting sport to watch because the probability for an upset was higher than in other sports. In recent soccer related science research, Ken Bray, a theoretical physicist from the University of bath in England has conducted research to show that the areas near the top corners of the net are what he calls an “unsaveable zone”. To find this zone, Bray studied games from the past 50 years and applied his knowledge of physics, biology, and psychology to calculate the reach of a goalkeeper attempting to save a penalty kick. His advice for the goalkeepers? Move before the ball is kicked…which I think is cheating, so that would not be my advice! Bray also says that in 85% of penalty kicks, the direction in which the plant foot is the direction of the shot.

Dr. Bray has written a book on the science of soccer titled, “How to Score”.


A goaltender: Diving for the ball.

I play soccer. I can frequently run and kick the ball without falling on my face, so I enjoy it. In fact, it is my most favorite sport to play. However, I think that watching soccer on TV is like watching paint dry — I find it to be very dull.

However, researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have found that soccer is the most unpredictable sport, as it more likely that a team with a worse record can defeat a team with a better record. The researchers looked at the results of over 300,000 soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey and football games, and found that the likelihood for an upset was greatest in soccer.

So, it should be more exciting to watch a soccer game because the results are not as predicated on the records of the two teams as other sports.

This research is an interesting way to combine an interest in sports and an interest in math!