A Great New Elliptical Game of Pool

Are you getting bored of walking into your local bar or pool hall and playing pool on that boring old rectangle table? Fortunately a math and science writer named Alex Bellos devised a new type of pool table using the shape of an ellipse. The game is called Loop, which is not only a play on the shape but also the word ‘pool’ spelled backwards.

All amateur pool players understand that a ball will bounce off the table walls at an equivalent angle, so if it arrives at a 15 degree angle from one side it will bounce back 15 degrees in the opposite direction. This concept was understood as far back as ancient Greece, when the great mathematician Euclid noticed that light reflects at equal angles off shiny surfaces.

Bellos sought to create a game of pool based on a different set of Greek geometric principles related to the ellipse. Around 250 BC, the Greek geometer Apollonius of Perga coined the term ‘ellipse’ to describe the shape you get when cutting a cone at an angle.

Science Photo Library
Science Photo Library

What makes the ellipse an interesting shape for a pool table is that is has two focus points. This means that any ball which crosses the path of one focal point should theoretically bounce off the cushion in the direction of the second point.

Elliptical geometry

Despite the sound mathematics, it is not as easy as it sounds due to factors such as friction, force, speed, and others.

Watch the video to learn a bit more about the seemingly fun game and the corresponding geometry. However, if you’re looking to try this interesting new challenge you’re probably going to be looking for a long time — it does not seem like this game will be mass produced anytime in the near future.

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