27/11/2015 7:37 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

The Pink Cricket Ball Took Far Longer To Engineer Than Some Of Australia's Most Complicated Inventions


As Australia obsesses over the merits of a pink cricket ball which has been 10 years and millions of dollars in the making, here’s a thing or two to put this epic feat of sports goods engineering into perspective.

Distinguished Professor James Dale (yep, that’s his real title) of the Queensland University of Technology has been working on colour changes too. He’s making bananas more orange so he can save millions of malnourished kids each year from dying.

In central African nations like Uganda, many poor people largely subsist on a local strain of bananas which are low in certain key micronutrients. Professor Dale hopes is developing a pro-vitamin A-enriched banana which will make banana flesh more orange and everybody healthier.

Now there’s a colour change which has been 10 years, and $10 million of Gates foundation money, well spent.

Meanwhile, as cricketers fear that the new pink ball will be quickly whacked out of shape and go all egg-shaped, Flinders University Professor Colin Raston last year perfected a device that can unboil an egg.

Unboiling eggs is simpler than changing the colour of a cricket ball. (Picture: Flinders University)

Professor Raston’s “Vortex Fluidic Device” is actually designed to make pharmaceuticals easier to produce. But who knows? Perhaps cricket authorities might duck across town and seek a little of Professor Raston’s eggspertise, should the state of the ball become a bad yolk.

Ball manufacturer Kookaburra undertook 10 years of development, seven years of testing, and trialled 16 shades of pink and three different stitching colours before settling on the final pink-with-green-stitching ball to be used in this week’s Test. Yet many in the cricket fraternity fear it will still scuff too much, and too quickly.

Perhaps Kookaburra could have consulted University of Queensland inventor and chief scientific officer Professor Darren Martin, who headed a $3 million project which just developed a scratch-resistant and environmentally sustainable acrylic. (People, your smartphone glass is about to get a whole lot harder.)

Kookaburra managing director Brett Elliott recently revealed that he had fired balls out of a cannon and even sent one into space as part of the testing process to see how “they respond to different atmospheres and conditions”.

Perhaps the ball collided with the new Japanese satellite which Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is now using. The BoM also just lashed out on a new $77 million supercomputer to improve the accuracy of weather forecasting data. It’s working too. That 40-degree day in Sydney last week which everyone was talking about? They forecast that sucker a week in advance.

Steve Smith will be aiming for the Himawari-8. (Picture: BoM)

Kookaburra’s Brett Elliott made it clear that the balls-in-space thing was novelty testing. But he was deadly serious when he added that “ultimately the testing that has taken place has been very formal, very structured, and involved a lot of professionals of their fields”.

Project Pink has no doubt been every bit as thorough and exhaustive as Mr Elliott claims. We salute everybody involved. We just thought we’d share some other scientific advances which have also been “very formal, very structured, and involved a lot of professionals of their fields”.

Why? Because it’s only a bloody pink ball, that’s why. Like a pink lollipop, the next not particularly scientific step here should be to suck it and see. Too much has been written already in speculation.

Road-testing new medicine? Nope. Just cricket balls. (Picture: Kookaburra)

“I think we've got it as far as we can at this stage. The next stage is matches being played at international level,” Elliott said recently.

We’re with him. Let’s see what happens on Friday.

Meanwhile, there are no shortage of innovations in Australian science which deserve a lot more attention and analysis than a cricket ball with pink lacquer coating.

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