Swimsuit Technology

In a professional swimming competition, the difference between first and second place can come down to thousandths of a second. Swimmers try to gain any advantage they can, and in 2007 Speedo developed a new suit to help. This suit claimed to eliminate 5% of the drag (resistance of the water on the body) when compared to other suits. The Speedo suit broke countless world records between 2007 and 2009, including 43 at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, Italy. In 2009 the swimming governing body banned the suits, to even the playing field.

Read the basics of swimsuit technology.

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Skiing: It’s All About Friction

glide2It’s all about friction. Really. Friction from the snow, friction from the air, friction from the surface of the ski or the clothing you wear.  The physics of skiing is all about how to overcome drag and resistance and allow a skier to slice his/her way down the mountain.  And if Newton’s laws have anything to do with it, a skier who controls friction best has the best chance of winning.

Find out the basics of friction and skiing.

Articles by Marcia Howell.

From Tee to Fairway: How Physics Affects the Drive, the Club, and the Golf Ball

Golf Ball Velocity

Golf Ball Velocity

When a player exerts force on the golf ball, he/she swings an average of 4-5 miles per hour.  If the player uses a club with a flexible shaft, the act of swinging adds an additional measure of torque as the head of the club also propels forward to connect with the ball.  The head of the club has grooves that increase the friction between the club and the ball, allowing the club to more effectively focus the area of contact.

The optimal angle to hit the ball ranges from about 12 to 20 degrees.  Putting a backspin on the ball increases lift and can add significant distance to the drive.  The dimples on the golf ball itself help reduce drag from the air stream by reducing turbulent air pressure around and behind the ball, shifting the wake further behind the ball, thus allowing for smoother, less resistant flight.   Any combination of these variables contributes to how well the ball overcomes the forces of gravity and air resistance.

Learn the basics of how physics affects golf or read the more technical details here.

Articles by Trevor Stoddard.

Aerodynamics and Cycling

Cycling has undergone immense changes since its early days.  As science has opened our understanding of aerodynamics, it has driven changes in bicycle composition and design, the clothing worn by the cyclist, and even the positioning of the rider on the bicycle.

These three factors directly correlate to the amount of drag experienced by the cyclist.  In fact, researcher L. Brownlie reported that some styles of baggy clothes cost cyclists 1.17% of their finishing time in a 100-meter race.  Serious cyclists utilize this knowledge by dressing in sleek, close-fitting clothing to optimize their aerodynamics.

How much of a role do aerodynamics play? Learn the basics or read the more technical explanation.

Articles by Cristian Clavijo.