21 April 2022

Scientist explains Jimmy White’s impossible snooker shot

An impossible snooker shot that has blown the minds of professional players and fans alike following a demonstration by Jimmy White, has finally been explained after the star teamed up with a scientist from the University of Sheffield.

  • Snooker legend Jimmy White teams up with University of Sheffield physicist to explain the science behind an impossible snooker shot 
  • The impossible dump shot stunned players and fans alike when Jimmy White demonstrated how the white ball and the object ball will always collide after coming off the cushion if the shot is played straight on during the Scottish Open in 2020
  • A dump shot is a type of safety shot that is usually perfectly simple to play, unless the shot is straight on with a pocket
  • New video uses physics to explain why the shot is impossible to play to coincide with the World Snooker Championship taking place at the Crucible

An impossible snooker shot that has blown the minds of professional players and fans alike following a demonstration by Jimmy White, has finally been explained after the star teamed up with a scientist from the University of Sheffield.

The dump shot - a type of safety shot that leaves the object ball tight against the cushion while the white ball travels back up to the other end of the table - is perfectly simple to play, unless the balls are lined-up straight on with a pocket. 

During the Scottish Open in 2020, Jimmy White demonstrated how the white ball and the object ball will always collide after coming off the cushion, if the shot is played straight on.

No matter what the player does, even if they play the shot fast or slow, if the shot is played straight on, the collision will always occur. The demonstration left fans and snooker players stunned with many professional players who had been in the game for years saying they were unaware the balls would collide if the shot were to be played straight on.

Now, almost two years on from the mystery shot and to coincide with the World Snooker Championship (16 April - 2 May 2022) at the Crucible in Sheffield, Jimmy White has teamed up with a physicist from the city to use science to explain the impossible shot.

Professor Simon Goodwin, Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Sheffield, has teamed up with Jimmy White in a new video to explain how the shot works using physics.

Professor Goodwin said: “When I watched Jimmy play the shot on Eurosport and I saw how the collision always happens, it tickled the physicist in me, because if something always happens then there must be a reason for it. 

“Usually the chance of a double kiss in snooker is really, really small, but if you are on this line straight on to the pocket then the two balls always end up in the same place at the same time. It’s never exactly the same place because there are lots of variables in play, such as the speed of the balls off the cushion, but they will always double kiss.

“Snooker is a very precise sport, so it can be a fun way to get people thinking about science and using physics to understand how certain shots play out as they do. With the World Snooker Championship currently being played in Sheffield, I hope the video can be another way for people to understand why it is the balls can do what they do, and how some of the amazing and/or weird shots work.”

Three-time world champion Jimmy White, said: “You learn something new every day. I thought I knew everything there is to know about snooker and I’ve just been shown how the double kiss works. Great stuff!”

The video to explain the mystery shot is part of a collaboration between researchers from the University of Sheffield and Century Cues - a Sheffield-based business that creates unique innovative products for the cuesports market.

The University is working with Century Cues to develop a better scientific understanding of how snooker works to revolutionise various aspects of the sport, funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council's innovation grant.

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