Are Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson wrong on DeflateGate? Wouldn't a ball cooled from 80F to 50F be 2 psi under 13 psi?

A couple points. Nye makes no mention of how long he left those balls in the refrigerator and the fact that he put so many of them in there makes me highly suspicious. Why did he need more than one? That many 80-degree footballs are going to take a long time to get down to 51 degrees in a refrigerator – the leather is effectively insulating them from any convection effects and that many balls are going to bring their own climate with them. And 51 degrees? Where did that temperature come from? I’ve read reports that it was 51 degrees at game time but the balls are out there on the field hours before game time, when presumably it was colder. And by halftime they’ve been man-handled by two and three hundred pound men for an hour more. I don’t know what it does to the air pressure in a football to have two or three NFL players landing on it every play, but it certainly doesn’t increase the air pressure.

According to Nye his football lost 6% of its pressure. That is not insignificant. That’s three quarters of a pound even under the questionable non-scientific conditions he created. If the Patriots inflated the balls to the low end of the allowed range, 12.5 pounds, which they would be allowed to do under the rules, the ball pressure would be 11.25 pounds after a few minutes at 51 degrees, well under the legal range.

There is a simple mathematical formula for how much air pressure would be lost due to cold temperatures on the field. We all know Nye isn’t intelligent enough to use the formula. That’s why he went with the refrigerator stunt. Anyway, I don’t think the formula tells the whole story. My experience with footballs is that the valve is pathetically dysfunctional. You just hope the stupid thing isn’t leaking after you pump the ball up. Take a football out into the cold and that pathetic valve becomes even more dysfunctional. It’s just rubber sealing itself by virtue of its flexibility and that rubber is much less flexible in the cold. Have five hundred pounds of NFL player land on that football with the pathetic valve and I’m guessing it leaks air like a Polish submarine.

/r/askscience Thread