On August 20, in the third round of the BMW Championship golf tournament, an attendee put a remote-controlled golf ball on the 15th green where professional golfers Rory McIlroy and Scott Stallings were putting and tried to navigate it into the hole. After two failed attempts from McIlroy to knock the ball away with his putter, he ultimately threw the ball into a nearby water hazard. The perpetrator was escorted from the area by law enforcement proclaiming, “This is my dream.”
It is unknown what the man behind the remote-controlled ball’s dream was, but several remote-controlled golf balls are available from Amazon and other places. For example, Sphero Mini Robot Ball is equipped with a gyroscope, accelerometer and colorful LED lights. Its movements can be controlled remotely in several ways. With today’ microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology, the accelerometers and gyroscopes are available from many suppliers as well as radio frequency technology small enough to be housed in golf ball. The only trick is having the audacity to interrupt a golf tournament to try it out.
This same question about what’s inside could be asked regarding the Betz sphere. In 1974, long before the availability of tiny MEMS accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers and microelectronics, the Betz sphere attracted nationwide attention for its odd behavior. The 8-inch diameter, almost bowling ball size, structure weighed 22 pounds — much heavier than a typical bowling ball. Found on in the woods around their property in 1974, the Betz family brought the object home. Subsequently they observed that the sphere would roll around on its own, changing directions and then suddenly stop. The sphere gained notoriety that led to examinations by several credible investigators including the U.S. Navy that commented on its stainless-steel exterior but ruled out extra-terrestrial origin. While it is unknown how the sphere produced its strange behavior, even without MEMS technology, accelerometer, gyroscopes and rf devices of the time could have been housed inside the much larger structure.