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Nobel Prize winner disagrees with science in Wells Report


The Ted Wells Report, which the NFL relied on in suspending Tom Brady and stripping draft picks from the Patriots for Deflategate, came to a scientific conclusion that “no set of credible environmental or physical factors” could have resulted in the Patriots’ footballs becoming underinflated. Now the Patriots have found a Nobel Prize-winning scientist to take issue with that.

On, the Patriots have published a rebuttal from Roderick MacKinnon, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2003. MacKinnon writes that he disagrees with the Wells Report’s conclusion. In particular, MacKinnon criticizes the Wells Report for its failure to determine which of two gauges were used to measure the PSI levels of the Patriots’ footballs, which in MacKinnon’s view is a fatal flaw.

“I believe the data available on ball pressures can be explained on the basis of physical law, without manipulation,” MacKinnon writes. “The scientific analysis in the Wells Report was a good attempt to seek the truth, however, it was based on data that are simply insufficient. In experimental science to reach a meaningful conclusion we make measurements multiple times under well-defined physical conditions. This is how we deal with the error or ‘spread’ of measured values. In the pressure measurements physical conditions were not very well-defined and major uncertainties, such as which gauge was used in pre-game measurements, affect conclusions. Finally, the claim of a statistically significant difference in pressure drop between the two team balls regardless of which gauge was used did not account for the fact that the Colts balls were apparently measured at the end of halftime since the officials ran out of time and made only four measurements – in other words, the Colts balls were measured after the Patriots balls and had warmed up more. For the above reasons, the Wells Report conclusion that physical law cannot explain the pressures is incorrect.”

The Patriots say MacKinnon has “no business or personal relationship” with the team and merely offered his own analysis as an interested party who’s knowledgeable about the topic.

The reality is that virtually no one in the NFL (or for that matter the general public) is qualified to assess the scientific validity of the Wells Report’s findings. But it looks bad for the league that the Patriots have been able to find a Nobel Prize winner who says the Wells Report’s science is wrong.