The Atlantic

What Color Is a Tennis Ball?

An investigation into a surprisingly divisive question
Source: Thomas Peter / Reuters

It seemed like an easy question.

The query came from a Twitter poll I spotted on my news feed last week, from user @cgpgrey. “Please help resolve a marital dispute,” @cgpgrey wrote. “You would describe the color of a tennis ball as:” green, yellow, or other.

Yellow, obviously, I thought, and voted. When the results appeared, my jaw dropped with cartoonish effect. Of nearly 30,000 participants, 52 percent said a tennis ball is green, 42 percent said it’s yellow, and 6 percent went with “other.”

I was stunned. I’d gone from being so sure of myself to second-guessing my sanity in a matter of seconds. More than that, I could never have imagined the question of the color of a tennis ball—surely something we could all agree on, even in these times—would be so divisive.

I dropped the tweet into my team’s Slack channel, which includes The Atlantic’s science, technology, and health reporters and editors. The long conversation that followed can only be described as a bloodbath.

The seemingly trivial question tore apart our usually congenial group. Lines were quickly and fiercely drawn, team green against team yellow, as my

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