Palmount45’s photo of a three-car crash at Daytona.
Palmount45’s photo of a three-car crash at Daytona.

Hard Hits

A three-car crash at Daytona. Image Credit: Palmount45 / CC BY-SA (
  • Free Audio
  • Ad-Free Audio

About This Episode

When a race car hits the wall at 200 mph, how much force is involved? How much energy is behind a punch to the face? On this episode of StarTalk Sports Edition, Neil deGrasse Tyson and co-hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly are investigating the physics of all the hard hits you love in sports. 

We start with boxing. Neil explains why punches in old western movies were the least effective. We explore the physics behind Bruce Lee’s famous one-inch punch. Neil tells us why kinetic energy is a curious thing. You’ll learn why the uppercut is the most devastating punch in boxing. You’ll also learn why leaning in towards the punch increases the chances of being hit hard. And, Chuck invents a new sport called “butt-boxing.”

Then, we turn our attention to soccer (and why not when you have a former professional soccer player as a co-host?). We explore the art of heading and why kicking the ball with your toe creates the most force with the least amount of accuracy. We investigate rugby and how it differs from American football. How much energy is dissipated due to pads? 

To close things out, we head out to the racetrack. Neil tells us the physics behind a car crash, and, gives a personal example using a crash he was in. We discuss kinetic energy once more and how it’s transferred when a big crash occurs. You’ll find out more about “crumple zones.” Lastly, we ponder how walls absorb the transfer of energy during a crash on the track. All that, plus, Chuck has an idea on how to make NASCAR more exciting. 

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

In This Episode

Get the most out of StarTalk!

Ad-Free Audio Downloads
Priority Cosmic Queries
Patreon Exclusive AMAs
Signed Books from Neil
Live Streams with Neil
Learn the Meaning of Life
...and much more

Episode Topics