Mental Floss

Exercise Your Geometry Skills on an Elliptical Pool Table

Michele Debczak

If you’ve ever wished there was more geometry involved in a game of pool, try playing it on an elliptical billiard table. Alex Bellos, the British journalist in the video above, got the idea to update the classic bar game while researching his book The Grapes of Math. He became especially fascinated with the properties of the ellipse, which educators often describe using the hypothetical scene of a ball bouncing inside an elliptical pool table. Every ellipse features two focus points, and the theory dictates that if you hit a ball that's on one of the focus points it will bounce against the perimeter in such a way that makes its path cross the other. To bring this scenario out of the hypothetical and into reality, Bellos adapted the rules of pool to be played on a physical elliptical table.

The new game called “Loop” (pool spelled backwards, in case you didn’t catch that) uses a single interior hole where one of the ellipse's focus points would be in place of corner pockets. It’s played with a cue ball and three colored balls that must be hit at exactly the right force and angle in order to reach the pocket. As of now only one elliptical table, financed by billionaire quantitative investor David Harding, has been constructed. But Bellos tells WIRED, “If any American billiard companies want to produce more, I’d love to work with them."

[h/t: WIRED]