The trick to improve marksmanship, explained by science

Throwing an object with enough skill to impact its fate is a more complex action than you think, whether you’re playing on the world’s best basketball team or throwing paper balls into the garbage can. If you want to improve your aim, going too fast is not the best advice.

Humans have developed a unique ability with respect to other animals, and that is aim. Throwing an object to reach a target, moving or not, was an essential skill for our ancestors, who had to perfect in order to hunt and survive. Now a team of scientists at Harvard University has figured out the best way to hit a target. Slow launches and curved trajectories are the most effective for reaching targets, according to the study, published by the Royal Society Open Science magazine.

The errors in the angle at which the object is thrown are amplified when the shots are fast. On the other hand, angle errors have hardly any effect when the shots are slow and the flight path is curved. “Once you launch the projectile, there’s nothing to do,” says study author Madhusudhan Venkadesan. “The thrown object will only carry out the result of what you did.

As for the way to launch, the style will depend on the shape of the projectile and the height and distance of our target. Throws from above (over the shoulders), and at a speed not too high (5 meters per second) were effective on the darts players, whose target is in front of them. On the other hand, if you want to basket a ball in a cube less than 3 meters from you, a gentle jerk from bottom to top is the best option.

While the slowest throwing arc is the most accurate on most occasions, throwing at the minimum speed may not be effective for certain activities. In sports, speed also depends on getting the perfect game. But speed is useless if we’re not precise. “How do you get as fast and accurate as possible? This is the next issue we’re chasing,” Venkadesan says.