Could the secret to the All Blacks' eight-year reign at the top of the world rugby rankings have just been discovered by a 12-year-old?

Year 8 student Simon Carter reckons he has the answer to the All Blacks' long history of success after conducting an experiment for his school science fair project - and a sports scientist believes Simon's work has merit.

Simon theorised the rugby players' black uniforms absorb photons, re-emit them as heat and keep the players' muscles warm.

"Warm muscles allow a player to perform at optimum," Simon says.


The Pirongia School student used seven different coloured sheets of paper to test his theory.

He left the paper in the sun for 10, 20 and 30-minute intervals.

Simon used an infrared thermometer to measure the emission rates, maximum heat and the amount the heat increased by at each time period.

He predicted black would absorb the most radiant energy heat, and white the least. And Simon was right.

"On the hottest of the three days, black absorbed more than twice the energy of white — 34.9 degrees Celsius compared to 16.7 degrees Celsius.

"The black paper absorbed all wavelengths of light and converted them into heat. The white paper reflected all wavelengths of light."

Simon says the test has "real-world implications".

Pirongia School Year 8 student Simon Carter with his science fair project. Photo / Bethany Rolston
Pirongia School Year 8 student Simon Carter with his science fair project. Photo / Bethany Rolston

"In a New Zealand summer, our cricketers play for hours in the open sun wearing white tops and pants. The clothing reflects the light, does not absorb the heat and the players can stay at a reasonable playing temperature.

"All Blacks wear black during a cold New Zealand winter. Their colour choice not only looks cool, but allows clothing to absorb photons and re-emit this as heat, keeping their muscles warm."

Human anatomy and physiology academic Dr Simeon Cairns said there was merit in the theory.

"Simon – great name – has done a nice study and with his thinking may well become a scientist one day," the AUT associate professor said. "He should be applauded for his efforts."

Cairns said physiological studies have indeed shown skeletal muscle power is greater when muscles are warmed up.

"In fact, studies have shown that power can decline slightly after the 10 minute halftime rest in team sports if muscle temperature falls.

"It's also well known that wearing dark coloured clothes will lead to retaining heat on hot days whereas light coloured clothes does the converse on hot days.

"Simon's data is consistent with this."

However, Cairns noted the All Blacks success would have many reasons behind it but a black outfit for heat retention is unlikely the sole cause of their success.

"The All Blacks do appropriate physical warm ups to achieve optimal muscle temperatures and can also win wearing white garments and lose wearing black garments," he said.

"Other countries also wear dark coloured jerseys so that small differences in heat retention are unlikely to be a factor.

"I wish Simon all the best and hope that he works towards becoming a sport scientist."