Tom Brady is currently serving a four-game suspension for his alleged participation in the 2015 Deflategate scandal, when the Patriots were accused of letting air out of game day footballs to give their quarterback an advantage over the Indianapolis Colts. But if you ask the right Patriots fans, you might hear a different story — one about gas laws and temperatures and rain and how rubbing a ball can make it lose pressure.
To get to the bottom of if it was actually physically possible for the footballs to deflate the way they did under the circumstances of atmosphere and game play that cold January morning, the NFL requested an investigation by a company called Exponent. Exponent "is often hired by insurance companies and companies in duress, perhaps facing lawsuits and the prospect of monstrous recalls and payouts," The New York Times reports, and its clients include Swiss Re, one of the World Trade Center's insurers, following 9/11, Exxon after the oil spill, BP after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, NASA after space shuttle explosions, and the Department of Justice after the Oklahoma Bombing.
Suffice it to say, Deflategate wasn't exactly the kind of job Exponent normally takes on:
"The visibility of this project fits into some of the largest that we do at this firm," [aerospace engineer John] Pye said. "But when you think about the impact? Meh. Not so much. No one is losing their lives here. The building is not burning down. The vehicle is not crashing. The product is still working. Nothing's caught on fire."
So why even get involved?
"It's an interesting scientific problem," [principal engineer Robert] Caligiuri said. "It clearly was not as simple as what it was portrayed in the early days. Frankly, it could be controversial, but we are not afraid of controversial matters." [The New York Times]
An interesting scientific problem, Deflategate certainly was — but the lengths the scientists went to conclude it was "more probable than not" that the balls had been intentionally deflated might be even more interesting. Learn the whole story at The New York Times.