The Science of Sports, with Hope Solo

Credit: Christopher Johnson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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About This Episode

This week on StarTalk Radio, we’re turning our science eye towards the wide world of sports and the psychology of athletes. Neil deGrasse Tyson interviews Hope Solo, Olympic gold medalist/U.S. national soccer team goalkeeper, about the science of sports. Neil is joined in studio by comic co-host Chuck Nice and sport psychologist Dr. Brent Walker, and they dive into the mental and physical sciences that lie beneath the sports we love. Explore how crowd behavior can affect athletes in different ways depending on the sport. Investigate the positives and negatives of sport specialization – when children from an early age pick one specific sport to focus on. You’ll also hear how Hope deals with being confident and how she credits her parents for allowing her to have a normal childhood while still staying competitive. Find out why children who play sports on a “school yard” level are better at conflict resolution and decision making. Uncover the negative effects adults bring when running organized sports programs, and reassess Malcolm Gladwell’s famous “10,000 hours rule.” You’ll learn why athletes who make things look easy get less television coverage, the psychology behind showboating to get attention, and how emotional intelligence and mental focus translate into leadership on the field. Hope not only shares her biggest weakness and her mental process during a penalty shootout, but she even tells Neil about her early failure as a rocket scientist, and the connection her hometown has with the atom bomb and the Manhattan Project. Mark McClusky, Digital Editor at Sports Illustrated, drops in to discuss the use of data and analytics to understand athletic performance. Data journalist Mona Chalabi weighs in on female high school sports participation across the country, and Bill Nye is out to prove that the more science a goalkeeper knows, the more successful they’ll be. All that, plus, Neil answers fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about the physics of soccer.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: The Science of Sports, with Hope Solo, as well as Neil’s extended interview with Hope Solo here. If you’d like to hear even more with Neil and Hope, check them out in our Playing with Science episode, Soccer: The Art of Goalkeeping, with Hope Solo.

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  • Allen

    I cannot believe that Neil let her get away with saying that the “B-52 Bomber that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki was called Days Pay”. Everything is wrong with that statement.

    The B-29 (not B-52) that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki was called Bockscar (not Days Pay). The B-52 did not exist in WWII and entered service in 1955.

    • Devon

      Agreed, I was very confused by her statement. Out of curiosity I looked up “Day’s Pay” and it seems the plane was actually a B-17 that the each employee at the Hanford Engineer Works gave up a day’s pay to purchase for the Army Air Corp, and it flew most of its missions over Germany.

      • Devon, thanks for going that extra distance to find the plane… and likely, the real story behind the name.

  • Nick

    I’m sorry, I couldn’t pass the point where she was so cheerful and proud about the fact that her town contributed to killing of hundred of thousands of civilians. I can understand the necessity of that act but not being cheerful about it. i use to like her. But now she disgusted me.
    And by the way her rocket didn’t imploded and the other kids didn’t sent they rockets in to space. Ugh.

  • crzli

    27 million people watched that world cup game? How did that “shatter every single viewing record for a televised soccer game, male or female” if the 2014 World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina was watched by over a billion people?

  • Kat Dunnigan

    I am disgusted that you invited Hope Solo onto the show — her violent behavior is well-documented, including domestic violence. While she was not convicted, we all know how hard it is for DV victims to prevail in court. Given the comments below, sounds like she was perfectly awful on the show as well. Either way, she should not be invited anywhere. Don’t you vetted your guests?

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