On a mission to prove that Russell Wilson’s controversial lateral to Mike Davis over the weekend was legal, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll revealed on Monday that he had reached out to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson looking for an answer. And much to his delight, Tyson came through with a detailed explanation on Twitter the following day.
“FYI: The lateral that @DangeRussWilson threw to @MikeDavisRB in Sunday’s @Seahawks @Eagles game was a legit ‘Galilean Transformation,'” Tyson tweeted on Tuesday. “In their reference frame, the ball went backwards. It’s not their fault they ran forward faster than the ball.”
Tyson also provided a video of the lateral in question:
FYI: The lateral that @DangeRussWilson threw to @MikeDavisRB in Sunday’s @Seahawks @Eagles game was a legit “Galilean Transformation”. In their reference frame, the ball went backwards. It’s not their fault they ran forward faster than the ball. pic.twitter.com/DHUKNtlcyj
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) December 5, 2017
The Galilean Transformation is defined as a “set of equations in classical physics that relate the space and time coordinates of two systems moving at a constant velocity relative to each other.” It’s a scientific way of saying the play “looked like guys running really fast” and “the speed of the ball that was traveling with the ball with the ball carrier at the time was passed along to the football,” which is the explanation Carroll offered to reporters on Monday.
Nevertheless, as many outlets have since pointed out, it doesn’t “fix” it. A forward pass in the NFL occurs whenever “the ball initially moves forward (to a point nearer the opponent’s goal line) after leaving the passer’s hand(s).” That means it should have been ruled a penalty considering the ball left Wilson’s hands around the 47-yard line and made contact with Davis’ hands around the 48-yard line, about one yard closer to the opponent’s goal line.
So Carroll was right about it being a legal pass in the grand scheme of things, but Tyson’s explanation doesn’t actually change anything. At least we now know what a Galilean Transformation looks like.