Colgate University

First-Year Course Offerings — Fall 2022

FSEM 132   Sports & Scientific Method
RestrictionsNo 2025 2024 2023
Core AreaScientific Perspectives

Faculty Profile for Professor Segall

In today’s world of sports, how is knowledge obtained? On what principles are strategy determined, personnel decisions made, and honors awarded? The advent of computers and the availability of large statistical databases have moved the source of knowledge away from conventional wisdom to more scientific and testable ideas. Questions of strategy and team decisions can now be addressed in an empirical fashion, causing a major impact in sports. Behind this revolution lies the scientific method of inquiry, including the notion of falsifiability and the relationship between theory and observation. This course explores these ideas using examples in sports to illustrate more general scientific concepts. Students explore the impact of empirical knowledge on the games themselves, and how it has caused changes in strategies and team decisions. Finally, the students ask their own sports questions and answer them in a scientific fashion. NOTE: Class discussions will often touch on sports topics, particularly in baseball and basketball, so some prior knowledge about the basics of both sports and the statistics that are used is helpful. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive credit for CORE 100S and satisfy the Scientific Perspective core requirement.

Ken Segall has been a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy since 2003. His teaching is primarily in physics, at both the basic and advanced levels, and in electronics. His research involves testing superconducting electrical circuits at very cold temperatures. These circuits could be used as a new kind of computer processor, as a tool to simulate the human brain, or as a demonstration of new quantum phenomena. He is also a big sports fan and plays tennis, golf and basketball in his spare time.