Things researchers do with ping-pong balls

If you are one of those who thinks that a ping-pong (table tennis) ball is only good for playing ping-pong (table tennis) then you’d be wrong. Researchers across the globe have found them useful in many ways – for example:

Ping-Pong-BallTo simulate snow avalanches (videos here in .avi format)

As a surgical aid in liver transplantation

For tracking whelks

To make ganzfeld goggles

To deter elephants (when filled with chilli oil)

Improbable can predict, with some confidence, that there are other research fields where ping-pong (table tennis) balls are found to be useful, if not indispensable – if you are aware of any, do let us know by commenting below (please note that in this instance, we’re looking for uses that researchers find for the balls, rather than researchers observing what others might do with them.)

Further reading: Technical Leaflet T3: The Ball


11 Responses to “Things researchers do with ping-pong balls”

  1. Tatiana Says:

    Also this (see page 13)

  2. Martin G Says:

    Ah yes, thanks Tatiana.
    The paper doesn’t seem to mention ping-pong balls as such – but might inspire another Improbable post on ‘Things researchers do with golf balls’.

  3. fluffy Says:

    It’s also the canonical representation of a supercritical nuclear reaction:

  4. Don Bockenfeld Says:

    Nonregulation (1) ping pong balls are used to test LHC interconnections.

    (1) Balls are a little smaller than regulation. Balls have radio transmitters inside them.

  5. Don Bockenfeld Says:

    PongSats: ping pong ball satellites

    Again, these are nonregulation ping pong balls (because each has an experiment inside it).

  6. Don Bockenfeld Says:

    Model of polio virus made from 60 ping pong balls in 1959.

  7. Don Bockenfeld Says:

    Manage wildfires by using ping pong balls.

  8. Martin g Says:

    Many thanks to all who’ve alerted us to a cornucopia – possibly even a plethora – of ping-pong ball applications (other than playing ping-pong). Whoever it was who invented the ping-pong ball, he or she would probably have been pleased to learn of all the out-of-the-box creativity out there.

  9. Patti Smith PE Says:

    I am an engineer an have occasionally needed an estimated stream flow for my work
    So I spanned the stream with bright colored strings at several measured distances
    At the string locations I measured the stream cross section
    I used estimated roughness factors for the stream bottom
    I would then float ping pong balls in several locations along the width of the stream timing the crossing of the strings
    I was able to get an fairly accurate results that I once was able to verify by measuring the downstream flow over a spillway

  10. Ian Ryals Says:

    The other conference page is under construction. This may indicate that the whole site was thrown together quickly.

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