Summary: "The Amazing World of Billiards Physics"
David G. Alciatore, PhD, PE ("Dr. Dave")
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Colorado State University
Note: Supporting narrated video (NV) demonstrations, high-speed video (HSV) clips, and technical proofs
(TP) can be accessed and viewed online at http://billiards.colostate.edu. The reference numbers used in
the article help you locate the resources on the website.
It's 1810, you're in a French prison, but because you are a model prisoner, you are given
access to a pool table donated by a local aristocrat. Your cue stick is an old style "mace" that has
a solid wooden tip, because the cue tip hasn't been invented yet. The wooden tip cracks and fails
to make good contact with the cue ball anymore ... not that it ever really did. You decide to tear
a small piece of leather off your shoe to attach to the cracked end of the mace to improve cue ball
contact. All of the sudden, your accuracy and possible arsenal of shots improve dramatically.
Sounds like an unlikely story? Well, that's pretty much what happened to Francois Mingaud,
the imprisoned Frenchman credited with inventing the leather cue tip. The leather tip allowed a
cueist to put "English" on the cue ball, which is sidespin caused by hitting the cue ball off center.
So a "Frenchman" invented billiards "English." (By the way, the British use the term "side"
instead of "English" to refer to sidespin.) "English" allows the shooter to better control where
the cue ball goes during a shot (e.g., see NV 4.25). The cue tip was a monumental invention for