The XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, are now well underway, to the enjoyment of millions of viewers from around the globe. In a recent post, I discussed the science behind the snow machines that are making Sochi, normally a subtropical resort town on the coast of the Black Sea, a winter paradise for skiers and snowboarders. But science also underlies many of the competitions taking place during the Winter Olympics, and the following collection of articles discuss some of the concepts that athletes must consider, whether by intellect or instinct, during their events.
Today Health: Why don’t figure skaters get dizzy? (Trick question. They do!) – With athletes spinning up to 40 consecutive rotations, it’s a wonder that figure skating is as nausea-free as seen on TV. Jordan Gaines explains how skaters exploit physics to reduce the strain on their stomachs.
Scientific American: Is the Quintuple Jump in Figure Skating Physically Possible? – The height of figure skating prowess is currently the quadruple jump, which entails four complete spins in midair. Laura Poppick consults physicists and biomechanists to see if skaters might ever exceed that impressive feat.
Digital Trends: How the US Olympic two-man bobsled team teamed with BMW – American bobsledders put the German automaker’s expertise in aerodynamics and manufacturing to work in creating one of the most technologically advanced craft ever to skim the ice. Brian Kamenetzky recounts the hours of development and testing behind the US hopes for gold.
Inside Science: Winter Olympics Science Notes: Ski Jumping – Luca Oggiano is an aerospace engineer, but his interests lie not with planes or spacecraft, but airborne skiers. Chris Gorski interviews him and other sources for an overview of what jumpers need to know before they take flight.
NPR: Why Some Olympians Load Up On Salad Instead Of Pasta – The path to the podium may start at the pasta bowl for some athletes, but others are employing more sophisticated eating strategies. Eliza Barclay outlines some of the goals that Winter Olympians hope to accomplish with their dining and how they achieve them.
CNN: Science friction – understanding the thinking behind curling – Appropriately enough, the study of the game sometimes called “chess on ice” involves some serious physics. Matt Majendie discusses the efforts of researchers to determine how exactly a curling stone curls.
Additionally, NBC Learn has compiled an excellent collection of free short videos discussing the scientific concepts behind a number of winter sports that can be viewed here.