This lesson provides an introduction to Pressure, Temperature and Gay-Lussac's Gas Law, using as an example the Deflategate controversy that took place in the sport of American Football in January 2015. The main learning objectives are: (1) to define temperature and pressure; (2) to introduce the concepts of absolute pressure and absolute temperature, including the use of Kelvin measurement units; (3) to use Gay-Lussac's law to predict how the pressure of a fixed container of gas, such as a football, will change due to an increase or decrease in temperature; (4) to compare predictions from a physical law with experimental measurements of the same quantity; (5) to introduce the concept of measurement error and to discuss sources of uncertainty in pressure and temperature measurements; and (6) to use the Ideal Gas Law to compute the amount of gas that would need to be added or removed from a fixed volume of gas, held at constant temperature, to achieve a given increase or decrease in pressure.
Grade Level(s): 10, 11, 12
Computer for Presenter, LCD Projector
Keywords: Pressure, Temperature, Gay-Lussac's Gas Law, Absolute Pressure, Absolute Temperature, Kelvin Measurement Units, Ideal Gas Law
This lesson provides an introduction to Gay-Lussac’s Gas Law, using as an example the Deflategate con-troversy that took place in the sport of American Football in 2015. The 2015 NFL AFC Championshipgame took place in Foxborough, Massachusetts on January 18th, 2015. That day, the New England Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 45-7. The Patriots were alleged to have illegally deflated their footballs before the game, to gain an unfair competitive advantage. (It is alleged that deflated footballs would be easier to throw and catch, and less likely to fumble.) The league launched a legal and scientific investigation after the game, leading to a media firestorm. From a scientific perspective, at the heart of the story lies Gay-Lussac’s Gas Law and the interpretation of measurements of temperature and pressure. This provides a great opportunity for students to apply critical thinking skills to an important real-world scenario– can the halftime measurements of the Patriots’ footballs be explained by basic physical laws?
Source and Access Information
Name of Author/Source: Elizabeth Murray at MIT BLOSSOMS
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Massachusettes Institute of Technology
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.